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Cara Pohle - USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. Los Angeles, CA, US

Cara Pohle Cara Pohle

Adjunct Assistant Professor | USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work


Cara Pohle specializes in the area of child and adolescent mental health, child maltreatment and trauma, and autism spectrum disorders.


CARA POHLE joined the social work adjunct faculty at USC in 2013. She teaches foundation courses related to social work research and social work practice with children and families as well as concentration-level courses related to clinical mental health practice with children and adolescents.

She was first introduced to the field of social work serving as an applied behavioral analysis therapist for a young child with autism. Her background is in child and adolescent mental health, child maltreatment and trauma, child development, parenting, autism spectrum disorders, research methods and case management.

Before joining USC, Pohle worked in a residential home for maltreated young children. There she designed and implemented developmentally based programming, provided clinical mental health services, including individual therapy, and led social skills groups for school-aged children. She also worked in a behavioral health setting as a case manager for children and adolescents.

In addition to teaching courses at USC, she is volunteering at a local elementary school as a community circle facilitator, teaching social, emotional and problem-solving skills in a group setting.

Education (3)

University of Southern California: Ph.D. 2012

Washington University in St. Louis: M.S.W. 2002

Washington University in St. Louis: B.A. 2001

Areas of Expertise (5)

Child Maltreatment and Trauma

Adolescent Mental Health

Social Work

Social Work Education

Child Mental Health

Industry Expertise (3)

Social Services

Writing and Editing



Research Articles & Publications (5)

Caregiver qualities, family closeness, and the well-being of adolescents engaged in the child welfare system Children and Youth Services Review

2017 Children who come into contact with the child welfare system are at greater risk of experiencing internalizing and externalizing behaviors. This secondary analysis of the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being explored how caregiver characteristics and behaviors, and caregiver–child closeness influence these outcomes over time. The final sample was 877 caregiver and adolescent (11–17 years old) dyads. Weighted multivariate regression analyses were performed. Caregiver characteristics associated with depressive symptoms included age and education; caregiver health was not associated with internalizing and externalizing behaviors. For adolescents, being female, older, or Hispanic was associated with internalizing behaviors. Although not significant for externalizing behaviors, caregiver–adolescent closeness was protective against internalizing behaviors. Understanding factors that contribute to the mental health of child-welfare-exposed adolescents has far-reaching implications for family-based interventions with child-welfare-involved youth.

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The Effect of Maternal Depression on Young Children’s Progress in Treatment Journal of Child and Family Studies

2014 This study examined the effect of maternal depression on the functioning of young, primarily Latino children (birth to 5) in an inner-city mental health treatment program designed for children involved or at risk of involvement with the child welfare system. Children and their mothers were evaluated at entry into the program and at 6-month intervals while in treatment. Maternal depression, child behavior problems, and child development were all measured. At entry into the program, children (n = 194) whose mothers were depressed had higher levels of behavior problems and poorer development. Boys had more problems than girls. A growth curve model of those with more than one measurement point (n = 147) found that although all children improved with treatment, children whose mothers were depressed improved more slowly than children whose mothers were not depressed. Findings support the negative impact of maternal depression on children’s progress in treatment.

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Case outcomes of child welfare-involved families affected by domestic violence: A review of the literature Children and Youth Services Review

2013 There is emerging evidence to suggest that children who come to the attention of child protective authorities are more likely to experience out-of-home placement if their families are affected by domestic violence than other reasons for investigation. To develop a better understanding of child welfare-involved families that are exposed to domestic violence, this article provides a comprehensive review of research examining the effects of domestic violence on the likelihood of out-of-home placement and family reunification. A search of the literature resulted in 16 articles that met the study's criteria. Data suggested that domestic violence may be negatively related to out-of-home placement depending on the sample type, and marginally related to family reunification. Recommendations and implications related to future research are presented.

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Understanding the Behavioral Determinants of Mental Health Service Use by Urban, Under-Resourced Black Youth: Adolescent and Caregiver Perspectives Journal of Child and Family Studies

2012 Black adolescents with mental health problems are less likely than non-Black adolescents with mental health problems to receive treatment, primarily for non-financial reasons including negative perceptions of services and providers, and self-stigma associated with experiencing mental health problems. To better understand these obstacles, 16 adolescents and 11 caregivers, recruited from two K-8th grade elementary-middle schools, participated in four focus groups guided by the unified theory of behavior to explore mental health help-seeking behaviors and perceptions of mental health services. In the focus groups, caregivers acknowledged more positive attitudes about seeking mental health services than adolescents, but both expected the experience of actually doing so to be negative. Adolescents and caregivers also acknowledged social norms that inhibit their mental health help-seeking. Therefore, we conclude that interventions targeting expectancies and social norms might increase the connection of urban, under-resourced Black adolescents and their families to mental health services, and be particularly important given the long-term consequences of untreated mental health problems for this group.

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Teaching Evidence-Based Social Work in Foundation Practice Courses: Learning from Pedagogical Choices of Allied Fields Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work

2012 The field of social work is attuned to the need to incorporate evidence-based practice education into masters-level curriculum. One question remaining is how to integrate evidence-based practice in the foundation practice courses. Integration of evidence-based practice across the foundation-level curriculum coincides with the Council on Social Work Education's mandate that student's engage in research-informed practice and practice-informed research. Through a discussion of definitions, criticisms, and pedagogy across the allied fields of medicine, nursing, and social work the authors address the current status of evidence-based practice curriculum in foundation-level education. The authors incorporate the lessons learned from allied fields and a Masters of Social Work student's analyses of their experience of evidence-based practice learning to propose an adult-learner model to improve evidence-based practice pedagogy in Social Work.

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