Jill Duerr Berrick is the Zellerbach Family Foundation Professor at the School of Social Welfare, UC Berkeley, and Professor II at the Department of Administration and Organization Theory, University of Bergen.
Dr. Berrick’s research focuses on the child welfare system and efforts to improve the experiences of children and families touched by foster care. Her interests target the intersect of poverty, early childhood development, parenting and the service systems designed to address these issues. Berrick’s research approach typically relies upon the voices of service system consumers or providers to identify the impacts of social problems and social service solutions on family life.
Dr. Berrick’s research focus includes:
Get to know Jill
What are you working on at the moment?
I am engaged in a study in partnership with the San Francisco county public child welfare agency to examine a multi-disciplinary team decision making model as a strategy to identify families appropriate for Differential Response services. Differential Response, in the U.S., typically refers to voluntary, community based services offered to families at low- to moderate- risk of child maltreatment. This randomized trial will examine whether or not families who are assessed by the multi-disciplinary teams are more likely to be referred to Differential Response services, and whether those families are also more likely to engage in services. The project has implications for secondary prevention of maltreatment and speaks to the value of public-private partnerships in serving vulnerable families.
Where are you best able to think?
I do my best thinking when I’m outside, walking my dogs. A perfect day for me starts with an early rise while the house is quiet, a cup of coffee while I sit on the couch, take in the view, and respond to e-mail for a bit. Then the house is busy for a short burst with everyone getting ready for school or work. After everyone is gone I take the dogs for a walk while I think about the day’s work ahead. That’s where I might craft the outline for a paper, think about a new project that’s getting underway, or “see” the narrative that some data patterns have revealed. The birds singing, the beautiful trees swaying in the breeze, the dogs romping with pleasure all seem to put me at east and allow me to focus.
What does your workspace look like?
I’m very fortunate that we have a small office in my home. Light streams in from windows on two sides, so I can take in the lovely sky or watch the squirrels chasing each other in the trees.
What is the best thing about your job?
The best thing about my job is bearing witness to incredible talent every day. I have the great privilege of working with incredibly talented colleagues and students, all of whom are dedicated to their work in the academy, but all of whom are also motivated by a strong desire to contribute to a more just society. Not everyone has the opportunity to do work that is closely connected to their values and to their aspirations for a better society. I not only get to do that, but get to do so in the company of others
… and the worst?
Grading papers. Does a paper merit an A- or a B+? B- or C+? Would someone else reading the same paper give it a different grade? What’s fair? These are the questions that haunt me when I’m grading papers. If I could only provide written feedback so that the student could use my comments to improve their writing, then the task would be just fine. But adding the dimension of grading makes an interesting task quite onerous and unpleasant.
Is there a specific book within your field you’d recommend?
“Hope’s Boy” by Andrew Bridge. The book is a memoir about a child’s involvement with the foster care system. Mr. Bridge helps the reader “see” and “feel” what it’s like when a child is separated from a parent, and his work conveys the urgency and importance of high quality social work services.
If you had to choose a different field, what would it be?
I’d probably choose Education if I weren’t in Social Work. I’d still want to dedicate my life to making more just the experiences of under-served children.
Is there a book you’ve read that you’d like to read again, and why?
“To Kill a Mocking bird” by Harper Lee. I read it to my kids when they were younger and I’d love to read it again. The writing is beautiful and I love the honor and truth of Atticus Finch.
What show are you binging this autumn?
Can you believe it? I don’t watch television.
Which podcast are you listening to right now and why?
“More Perfect.” It’s a podcast that explains many important U.S. Supreme Court decisions. It’s enormously interesting and extremely well produced. I always learn something (or many things); it helps to put in context the deeply divided nation I live in, and it offers me hope.
Place you’ve been where you never want to go back to?
Las Vegas, Nevada. The essence of most of the things I don’t like about the U.S.
And a place you’ve been where you’d like to go back?
Costa Rica. It’s beautiful and warm, with flora and fauna like we don’t have in the U.S. And the people are friendly and kind.
Who would you take with you on a desert island?
My husband. He’s the most resourceful person I know and I have faith he’d help us find a way off the island.
Updated Spring 2019