ELIZABETH KIM joined the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work in 2016 after completing her postdoctoral scholarship at the Berkeley Center for Prevention in Social Welfare. The goal of her research is to bridge the research-practice gap in service delivery models to address the mental, emotional, and behavioral health needs of youth in and at-risk for being involved in the juvenile justice system. Specifically, Dr. Kim is committed to research that seeks to reduce racial/ethnic disproportionality and disparities endemic to the juvenile justice system. In the last two years, Dr. Kim has taken leadership roles in pushing the field of prevention science and social work to engage in research that addresses racial/ethnic inequity. As an appointed member of the Society for Prevention Research Diversity Committee, she and her colleagues developed actionable guidelines and recommendations for reducing health disparities using Prevention Science approaches. Under the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare Grand Challenge of Achieving Equal Opportunity and Justice, Dr. Kim led the development of a position paper to set achievable goals for the field towards equity in the juvenile justice system. While much of the research has focused on evidence-based programs to reduce these problems, not much has been achieved to reduce the racial/ethnic disproportionality and disparities prevalent in the juvenile justice system.
Dr. Kim's research includes three focus areas: 1) understanding the development of both healthy and problematic behaviors in adolescence; 2) identifying service needs of youth in school and justice systems; and 3) identifying and testing effective strategies to improve services that promote positive development among youth at-risk for or in the juvenile justice system. Together, her research seeks to move evidence-based practice into service systems in order to reduce mental, emotional, and behavioral health inequity experienced primarily by youth of color over the life course.
She is a member of the Society for Social Work and Research, the Society for Prevention Research, the Society for Implementation Research Collaboration and the American Society for Criminology.
To reference the work of B.K. Elizabeth Kim online, we ask that you directly quote their work where possible and attribute it to "Bo-Kyung Elizabeth Kim, a faculty at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work” (LINK: https://dworakpeck.usc.edu)
University of Washington: Ph.D. 2014
University of Michigan: M.S.W., Social Policy & Evaluation 2010
University of California, Los Angeles: B.A., Interpersonal & Intercultural Communications Studies 2008
Areas of Expertise (8)
Children & Families
Industry Expertise (2)
Early Career Preventionist Network NIDA Travel Scholarship (professional)
Early Career Preventionist Network NIDA Travel Scholarship, Society for Prevention Research (2013-2016)
Grand Challenges (1)
Achieving Equal Opportunity and Justice
Kim, B. K. E, McCarter, S., & Logan-Greene, P. (2020). Achieving equal opportunity and justice in juvenile justice (Grand Challenges for Social Work Initiative Working Paper No. 25). Retrieved from Grand Challenges for Social Work website: https://grandchallengesforsocialwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Achieving-Equal-Opportunity-and-Justice-in-Juvenile-Justice-3.pdf In order to achieve equal opportunity and justice, our nation’s most vulnerable youth must not bear a disproportionate burden of justice system involvement. In 2016, nearly one million youth in the United States were arrested (Hockenberry & Puzzanchera, 2018). These youth are often those growing up with neglect, maltreatment, and abuse; living without financial security; facing mental, emotional, and behavioral health problems; and experiencing discrimination for various reasons not limited to race, ethnicity, culture, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Moreover, once they become justice-involved, they face diminished outcomes in development, education, and employment, as well as an increased likelihood of continued system involvement. Therefore, we propose rebuilding social work’s commitment to juvenile justice by capitalizing on recent policy and systems change, cross-sector collaboration, and evidence-based interventions. To transform the juvenile justice system over the next decade, we propose five actionable goals for social work practice, policy, and research to dismantle inequity and injustice and foster the full social, civic, economic, and political integration of justice-involved youth.
Research Grants (1)
Developing and implementing collaborative responses in child welfare and juvenile justice settings to support children and youth who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation
National Institute of Justice $766,248
A mixed methods study to develop an empirically supported service delivery model and implementation guide to coordinate service needs for commercially and/or sexually exploited youth across child welfare and juvenile justice systems
SOWK 536 Policy and Advocacy in Professional Social Work
A study of the complex and interconnecting systems of policy, programs, and communities that directly and indirectly impact Social Workers' clients lives
SOWK 630 Diversity, Social Justice, and Culturally Competent Social Work Practice
Introduction to diversity and social justice in the context of social work practice. Enhance cultural competence by raising awareness of one's own values/assumptions/biases.
SOWK 608 Research and Critical Analysis for Social Work with Children and Families
Critical analysis and application of various data, information, and evidence to understand client problems and service needs, identify appropriate interventions, and evaluate practice decisions.
SOWK 200 Institutional Inequality in American Social and Political Policy
Historic and philosophical roots of inequality for minority groups in the United States and implications for public policy.
Research Articles & Publications (10)
Statewide Trends of Trauma History, Suicidality, and Mental Health Among Youth Entering the Juvenile Justice SystemJournal of Adolescent Health
Bo-Kyung Elizabeth Kim, Amanda B. Gilman, Nicole Thompson, Jessenia De Leon
Purpose This study used Washington statewide administrative data to document the prevalence and trend of trauma history, suicidality, and mental health problems among all youth ordered to probation for the first time between 2011 and 2015. We also examined the extent to which trauma and mental health problems were associated with youth suicide risk during this time. Methods More than 16,500 youth started probation (2011–2015) and received a standardized risk assessment. We used descriptive statistics to assess the prevalence of trauma history, suicidality, mental health problems, and overall risk to reoffend. We then used multilevel logistic regression models (youth within counties) to assess each measure's association with suicidality. Results About 80% of the youth had a history of at least one traumatic experience. As fewer youth started probation for the first time each year, the prevalence of trauma, suicidality, mental health problems, and overall risk to reoffend increased. Trauma, mental health, and overall risk were significantly associated with suicide risk among probation youth. Conclusions This epidemiological study is expected to motivate discussion around the best ways to integrate trauma-informed care and suicide prevention in the juvenile justice system.
Examining protective factors against violence among high-risk youth: Findings from the Seattle Social Development ProjectJournal of Criminal Justice
2016 This paper examined proximal and distal effects of protective factors specified in the social development model (SDM) on youth violence among high-risk youth.
Effects of the communities that care prevention system on youth reports of protective factors.Prevention Science
2015 Many interventions seeking to reduce problem behaviors and promote healthy youth development target both risk and protective factors, yet few studies have examined the effect of preventive interventions on overall levels of protection community wide. In a community-randomized controlled trial, this study tested the effect of Communities That Care (CTC) on protective factors in 24 communities across seven states. Data on protective factors were collected from a panel of 4407 youths in CTC and control communities followed from grade 5 through grade 8. Hierarchical linear modeling compared mean levels of 15 protective factors derived from the social development model in CTC and control communities in grade 8, adjusted for individual and community characteristics and baseline levels of protective factors in grade 5. Global test statistics were calculated to examine effects on protection overall and by domain. Analyses across all protective factors found significantly higher levels of overall protection in CTC compared to control communities. Analyses by domain found significantly higher levels of protection in CTC than control communities in the community, school, and peer/individual domains, but not in the family domain. Significantly higher levels of opportunities for prosocial involvement in the community, recognition for prosocial involvement in school, interaction with prosocial peers, and social skills among CTC compared to control youth contributed to the overall and domain-specific results. This is consistent with CTC's theory of change, which posits that strengthening protective factors is a mechanism through which CTC prevents behavior problems.
The Strengths of Youth in a Public Behavioral Health System: Measurement Choices, Prevalence Rates, and Group DifferencesJournal of Behavioral Health Services and Research
Youth with severe emotional and behavioral problems receiving services in public behavioral health systems have strengths that are understudied in research and underutilized in practice. This study explores four alternative strategies (individual item scores, the number of “actionable” strengths, subscales, and a total composite) for summarizing the strengths of youth assessed with the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) in a large, urban, public behavioral health system. The paper examines whether these summarization strategies produce divergent understandings of the prevalence of strengths across gender, age, and racial groups. Analyses suggest that youth enter this system with high levels of strengths. There are few group differences in strengths across the diverse summarization strategies. Though the practice-preferred method of using individual strengths items provides the most interpretable information about strengths, the aggregation strategies may be useful for programs and systems. Implications for policy and practice are discussed.
Effects of the Communities That Care Prevention System on Youth Reports of Protective FactorsPrevention Science
2015 Many interventions seeking to reduce problem behaviors and promote healthy youth development target both risk and protective factors, yet few studies have examined the effect of preventive interventions on overall levels of protection community wide. In a community-randomized controlled trial, this study tested the effect of Communities That Care (CTC) on protective factors in 24 communities across seven states. Data on protective factors were collected from a panel of 4407 youths in CTC and control communities followed from grade 5 through grade 8. Hierarchical linear modeling compared mean levels of 15 protective factors derived from the social development model in CTC and control communities in grade 8, adjusted for individual and community characteristics and baseline levels of protective factors in grade 5. Global test statistics were calculated to examine effects on protection overall and by domain. Analyses across all protective factors found significantly higher levels of overall protection in CTC compared to control communities. Analyses by domain found significantly higher levels of protection in CTC than control communities in the community, school, and peer/individual domains, but not in the family domain. Significantly higher levels of opportunities for prosocial involvement in the community, recognition for prosocial involvement in school, interaction with prosocial peers, and social skills among CTC compared to control youth contributed to the overall and domain-specific results. This is consistent with CTC’s theory of change, which posits that strengthening protective factors is a mechanism through which CTC prevents behavior problems. © 2014, Society for Prevention Research.
Change in protective factors across adolescent developmentJournal of Applied Developmental Psychology
2015 Understanding the developmental changes in protective factors that lead to healthy youth development provides important information on the appropriate timing and targets for community-based prevention. This study used a control sample of 2002 individuals from 7 states to examine the normative development of protective factors. Data come from the Community Youth Development Study, a community-randomized trial of Communities That Care. Multilevel models estimated the change in protective factors from 5th to 12th grade, controlling for individual characteristics. Gender difference and school transitions were examined. Findings suggest that most protective factors decline through middle school but start increasing during high school, with some declining at slower rates than in middle school. Although females reported higher levels of protective factors than males, the transitional point did not differ by gender. Community initiatives that seek to bolster protective factors should start early and continue through high school.
Childhood Adversity Among Court-Involved Youth: Heterogeneous Needs for Prevention and TreatmentOJJDP Journal of Juvenile Justice
2016 Although experiences of trauma and adversity are highly prevalent among juvenile justice–involved youth, few studies examine the heterogeneity of these histories across individuals. This study seeks to inform practitioners of the distinct patterns of adversity among this vulnerable population, using an expanded measure of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). A Latent Class Analysis was employed to test for meaningful subgroups of youth based on histories of childhood adversity. The sample (N = 5,378) consisted of youth on probation in a western United States county. The best-fitting model contained six classes, described as: Low All (40.3%), Parental Substance Use and Incarceration (12.0%), Poverty and Parental Health Problems (13.2%), High Family Conflict and SES (socioeconomic status) (15.3%), High Maltreatment (11.0%), and High All (8.1%). Additional testing revealed significant differences across classes in terms of age, gender, race/ethnicity, and living situations. Results strongly support the need to incorporate a trauma-informed framework into both juvenile justice and community service settings as well as to tailor interventions to meet heterogeneous needs of court-involved youth. Striking variation in the forms and levels of childhood adversity argue for the value of screening for ACEs in conjunction with poverty and working to interrupt problematic trajectories in adolescence and the transition to adulthood.
Identifying and predicting criminal career profiles from adolescence to age 39Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health
Bo-Kyung Elizabeth Kim, Amanda B. Gilman, Kevin P. Tan, Rick Kosterman, Jen A. Bailey, Richard F. Catalano, J. David Hawkins
Few longitudinal studies are capable of identifying criminal career profiles using both self‐report and official court data beyond the 30s. The current study aims to identify criminal career profiles across three developmental periods using self‐report data, validate these profiles with official court records and determine early childhood predictors. Data came from the Seattle Social Development Project (n = 808). Latent Class Analysis was used to examine criminal careers from self‐reported data during adolescence (aged 14–18), early adulthood (aged 21–27) and middle adulthood (aged 30–39). Official court records were used to validate the classes. Childhood risk and promotive factors measured at ages 11–12 were used to predict classes. Findings revealed four career classes: non‐offending (35.6%), adolescence‐limited (33.2%), adult desister (18.3%) and life‐course/persistent (12.9%). Official court records are consistent with the description of the classes. Early life school and family environments as well as having antisocial beliefs and friends differentiate membership across the classes. The results of this study, with a gender‐balanced and racially diverse sample, bolster the current criminal career knowledge by examining multiple developmental periods into the 30s using both self‐report and official court data.
A longitudinal examination of African American adolescent females detained for status offenseChildren and Youth Services Review
Bo-Kyung Elizabeth Kim, Camille R. Quinn, Patricia Logan-Greene, Ralph DiClemente, Dexter Voisin
Introduction Behaviors like truancy, running away, curfew violation, and alcohol possession fall under the status offense category and can have serious consequences for adolescents. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency and Prevention Act prohibited detaining status offenders. We explored the degree to which African American adolescent girls were being detained for status offenses and the connections to their behavioral health risks and re-confinement. Methods 188 African American girls (aged 13–17), recruited from detention facilities, were surveyed at baseline and 3-month follow-ups. Logistic regression models estimated the likelihood of longitudinal re-confinement, controlling for sexual and behavioral health risk factors. Results One third of the overall sample was detained for a status offense. Status offenders were exposed to higher peer risk profiles. At follow-up, nearly 39% of status offenders reported re-confinement. Compared to youth with other offenses, those who violated a court order (type of status offense) were 3 times more likely to be re-confined. Controlling for sexual and behavioral health risk factors, the odds of re-confinement was not statistically significant. Conclusion Overall findings suggest that courts and detention facilities must devote specialized resources to addressing the socio-behavioral needs of African American girls with status offenses so as not to use detention as an intervention.
Adversity profiles among court-involved youth: Translating system data into trauma-responsive programmingChild Abuse & Neglect
Patricia B. Logan-Greene, Bo-Kyung Elizabeth Kim, Paula S. Nurius
Background Court-involved youth have high levels of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), which can impact functioning in adolescence and throughout adulthood. Yet there is limited research to help clinicians translate these histories into trauma-responsive programming guidelines. Objective This manuscript utilizes data that is routinely collected to inform practitioners about how to utilize trauma histories to inform program and practice decisions. Methods This study used administrative data with a diverse sample of medium- to high-risk youth on probation (N = 5,378) to examine how ACE clusters, identified through Latent Class Analysis, evinced differential treatment needs across multiple domains. Results Six identified classes – Low All, Parental Incarceration, Parental Health Problems, High Conflict, High Maltreatment, and High All – were assessed for differences in self-regulation, mental health, substance use, academic functioning, family/social resources, and behavioral problems. Classes varied significantly on all assessed domains, indicating differential needs for effective interventions to interrupt negative trajectories. Conclusions Utilizing existing data in a real-world setting and addressing challenges and barriers in real-time can help bring research evidence to practice. In addition to juvenile justice settings, we conclude with discussion of ways that allied community based services in schools, youth programming, and family services can benefit from awareness of these youth adversity profiles.