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J. Donald Cohon, PhD - Fielding Graduate University. Muir Beach, CA, US

J. Donald Cohon, PhD J. Donald Cohon, PhD

Distinguished Visiting Scholar - Infant & Early Childhood Development - School of Psychology | Fielding Graduate University


Designs community-based programs for disenfranchised groups


Don Cohon, PhD, designs and develops community-based programs to address particular social problems among disenfranchised groups. He has taken particular interest in the adaptation of refugee communities after their uprooting. His work with Southeast Asian refugees led to a teaching engagement at UC Berkeley Graduate School of Social Welfare, where he taught a graduate course on immigrants and refugees for seven years.

Dr. Cohon has worked as a Chinese Mandarin interpreter/translator. He also speaks Vietnamese and has written a book on the tribal laws and customs of a highland Montagnard tribe.

He has pioneered the study of extended families, kin care, and foster care, focusing on intergenerational care issues, and care of infants who are medically complex, drug-exposed and HIV+.

Dr. Cohon has written Federal, State, and foundation grants to help fund and support new programs. He has served variously as Principal Investigator and Project Director, conducting applied outcome research on community-based projects, using mixed methods (quantitative and qualitative).

Industry Expertise (4)



Health and Wellness

Program Development

Areas of Expertise (10)

Community and organizational psychology

Cross-cultural psychology


Adaptation of refugee communities

Intergenerational program design and implementation


Program Design

Program Development

Applied Research

Grant Writing

Accomplishments (3)

First Community Inclusion Award (professional)

(1994) United Cerebral Palsy of the North Bay

Grete Simpson Award Recipient (professional)

(1984) University of California San Francisco

Elvirita Lewis Foundation Award Recipient (professional)

(1987) Intergenerational research

Education (2)

University of Southern California: PhD, Education/Clinical Psychology 1975

Stanford: Master Trainer, Patient Education Research Chronic Disease Self-Management 2004

Affiliations (4)

  • American Psychological Association 1976-Resigned 2015
  • Society for Research in Child Development 1986-2011
  • National Committee on United States-China Relations 1974-Present
  • The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues 1985-2014

Languages (2)

  • Vietnamese
  • Chinese Mandarin

Event Appearances (11)

Abuse Reactive African American Kinship Youth Project

(1999) CWLA Kinship Care Conference: Honoring and Preserving Family Ties  Atlanta, GA

Edgewood Center for Children and Families Stuart Foundation Kinship Caregiver Study

(1999) CWLA National Conference on Research in Child Welfare and Western Region Training Conference  Seattle, WA

Qualitative and Quantitative Findings from Three Studies of Kinship Families

(2001) Sustaining Kinship Ties: Permanency and Beyond, Child Welfare League of America Third National Kinship Care Conference  Chicago, IL

Information as Inspiration: How the Outcome Evaluation of California’s Edgewood Kinship Support Network (KSN) Shaped Tennessee’s New Relative Caregiver Program

(2001) Intergenerational Approaches: Not Just Nice...Necessary, 11th Generations United Int'l Conference  Alexandria, VA

Edgewood’s Kinship Support Network—Partnering with Youth, Caregivers, and Community

(2002) Making Children a National Priority, Child Welfare League of America  Washington, DC

Edgewood’s Kinship Support Network: Supporting Grandparent Caregivers and Children

(2002) Family Care: Empowerment through Innovation, 3rd Int'l Conference of Nat'l Alliance for Caregiving  Washington, DC

Kinship Caregiver Research Data Expands Programs and Educates Policymakers

(2003) National Council on Aging and American Council on Aging Joint Conference  Chicago, IL

Preliminary Findings from a Study of Children in Kinship Care and Foster Care

(2003) Fourth National Kinship Care Conference, Child Welfare League of America  Philadelphia, PA

Kinship Caregivers’ Health and Children’s Impact on Their Families

(2004) 10th Biennial Family Support America Conference  Chicago, IL

Evaluation Studies of Edgewood’s Kinship Support Network

(2004) International Consortium for Intergenerational Programmes  University of Victoria, BC, Canada

Program Evaluation Data Shapes Kinship Practices and Educates Policymakers

(2005) 5th International Conference on Evaluation for Practice  University of Huddersfield, England

Articles (6)

Preserving family: Themes from a qualitative study of kin caregivers

(2005) Family Preservation Journal, Vol. 8

This article (co-authored by Hines, L., Cooper, B., Packman, W. & Siggins, E.) presents themes from a qualitative study of 58 African American female kinship caregivers in San Francisco. Core concepts that emerged describe various paths along which children move into kin homes, and caregivers' mixed emotional reactions to becoming surrogate parents. Women also discussed multiple family roles they assumed after taking in children. Responses highlight three primary reasons for becoming caregivers that center on providing for and protecting these children—particularly from the perceived threat of the public foster care system—and ultimately preserving the family unit. Paradoxically, caregivers' reasons mirror the stated goals of the public foster care system, which they view as a threat to family stability. We discuss the problems of implementing practice and policy recommendations for permanency and family preservation and how to bridge the gap between the deeply held negative beliefs of African American caregivers towards the public system and begin to build trust.

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A preliminary study of an intervention with kin caregivers

(2003) Journal of Intergenerational Relationships

Don Cohon, Hines, L., Cooper, B., Packman, W. & Siggins, E. Provides a description of the kinship in foster care homes and the support services needed to assist older kin caregivers along with demographics data of these families.

African American extended families and kinship care: How relevant is the foster care model for kinship care?

(2002) Children and Youth Services Review

Brown, S., Cohon, D. & Wheeler, R. In supporting kinship care as a “new” solution to old child welfare problems, we should acknowledge the history of the extended family and informal kinship care in individual families. In this article, we review the role of extended family in the lives of 30 youth currently residing in kinship care households. We find that these youth have extensive experience living with kin prior to their formal placement in kinship care, and that these youth continue to rely on extended family networks after their official placement with kin. This familiarity with extended family households suggests that youth in kinship care may find these arrangements neither novel nor disruptive. We recommend that service providers and researchers working with kinship care understand the adaptable and flexible nature of the family and acknowledge that this flexibility often protects families facing social and economic adversity. We further suggest that continued idealization of the nuclear family—including its use in the conceptualization of foster care—may hinder service provision because it obscures the resources of extended families.

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Specialized Foster Care for Medically Complex, Drug-Exposed, HIV Positive Infants: The Baby Moms Program

(2001) Children and Youth Services Review, Vol. 23

The nineteen eighties saw a rise in the number of medically complex infants, some HIV positive, entering foster care. Nationally, a variety of programs were developed in response to this situation, many of them at private agencies. The forces of more than a decade ago that contributed to the increased placements of these babies in foster homes continue to affect families today. This paper describes San Francisco's Baby Moms program, a specialized foster care unit in the City's Department of Human Services. Federal support created an external private agency-based project to support Baby Moms, the Fragile Infant Special Care Program, forging a unique private-public partnership. In addition to explaining the program model, descriptive characteristics of infants and mothers are presented. Lastly, we discuss the relevant practice and policy lessons learned. (Co-authored with Fritz, D., Brady, M., Cooper, B. A., Needell, B. & Smith, K).

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Edgewood's Kinship Support Network: Program Model and Client Characteristics

(1999) Children and Youth Services Review

Cohon, D. and Cooper, B.A. Vol 21, No 4, 331-338.

Crime and Violence Among Asian/Pacific Islander Youth: Delinquency Prevention Strategies

(1985) Special Publication of California Youth Authority, Prevention and Community Corrections Branch

Sacramento, CA