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Mark Testa, Ph.D., M.A. - UNC-Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, NC, US

Mark Testa, Ph.D., M.A. Mark Testa, Ph.D., M.A.

Professor, UNC School of Social Work | UNC-Chapel Hill


Sandra Reeves Spears and John B. Turner Distinguished Professor



Mark Testa, Ph.D., M.A. Publication Mark Testa, Ph.D., M.A. Publication



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Dr. Testa is an architect of innovative reforms in the fields of child protection and foster care at the state, regional and federal levels. As a research director for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services in the 1990s, his leadership and policy analysis led to a federal child welfare demonstration that enabled the state to provide funding to families who became legal guardians of related foster children to help pay for the children’s care. Such federal subsidies had never been available to relative caregivers prior to this change. Results of the demonstration prompted Congress to act on the findings and pass legislation that created the Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program (KinGap) as part of the “Fostering Connections” Act that was signed into federal law in 2008. Testa’s 2010 publication “Fostering Accountability” is considered a strategic model for demonstrating how administrators and practitioners can build valid evidence for their successes in improving child and family outcomes and for holding them accountable for actions to protect children from abuse and neglect. Testa helped to draft language for the proposed federal “Social Impact Partnership Act,” which is designed to encourage private investors to fund social and public health interventions and projects that aim to improve outcomes for at-risk individuals. Testa has received multi-million dollar grants and contracts as well as multiple appointments to various state and national expert panels and committees charged with overseeing efforts to move vulnerable children more quickly into permanent homes. He also continues to lead or co-lead several investigations aimed at ensuring the well-being of children. As the author or co-author of four books, a dozen book chapters, 2 dozen refereed journal articles, as well as countless reports, lectures and conference papers, Testa continues to strengthen efforts to advance evidence-informed solutions. He created the “Wicked Problems of Child Welfare Institutes” with Children’s Home Society of America, a national consortium of child welfare agencies. They brought together child welfare experts, service providers and government officials with one primary goal in mind: To encourage and disseminate sustainable solutions that are grounded in evidence and that positively affect young lives that come into contact with state child protective systems.

Industry Expertise (7)


Health and Wellness

Health Care - Providers

Public Policy


Social Services


Areas of Expertise (4)

Foster Care

Adoption Services

Poverty Research

Children's Aid

Accomplishments (6)

Appointed Member (professional)

Serves as the N.C. Governor’s appointed member of the Permanency Innovations Initiative Oversight Committee, a non-standing committee for the N.C. General Assembly

Principal Investigator (professional)

Currently serves as Principal investigator for the evaluation of the Illinois IV-E waiver demonstration of child-parent therapeutic interventions for foster children, age birth to 3-years-old

Board Chair (professional)

Chair of the Leadership Team and Advisory Board for the National Quality Improvement Center on Adoption/Guardianship Support and Preservation with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Expert Panel Member (professional)

Currently a Member of the Expert Panel appointed under the B.H. vs. Sheldon Consent Decree, United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division

Co-Investigator (professional)

Co-Investigator of the Third National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW-III), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under sub-contract with RTI, International

Awards (professional)

Dr. Testa has received numerous awards for his scholarship and public engagement, including the UNC School of Social Work Excellence in Research Award, Angel in Adoption from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Adoption 2002 Excellence Award for Applied Scholarship and Research on kinship care and permanence.

Education (3)

University of Chicago: Ph.D., Sociology 1983

Dissertation title: Child Placement, Deinstitutionalization and Social Change (Morris Janowitz, chair)

University of Chicago: M.A, Sociology 1975

Wesleyan University: B.A., Sociology 1972

Affiliations (1)

  • Fostering Connections Resource Center

Media Appearances (3)

CHSA and UNC launch child welfare research network

UNC School of Social Work  online


Children’s Home Society of America (CHSA) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Social Work have launched a child welfare practice-based research network to help inform and improve local, state and national policies around child welfare and well-being. “The new research network is comprised of partnerships between universities and CHSA member agencies,” said Mark Testa, Spears-Turner Distinguished Professor at UNC and a national child welfare expert. “Through these practice-based research partnerships, we will identify evidence-informed promising practices in child welfare and evaluate their effectiveness in order to help set a new direction for building innovative and sustainable child welfare systems at the local and state levels, and ultimately, the federal level.”

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Testa presents at Capitol Hill briefing on child welfare

Contact Magazine  online


Spears-Turner Distinguished Professor Mark Testa was among the speakers at a Capitol Hill briefing on Tuesday, Nov. 5 in Washington, D.C., to address the “wicked problems” of child welfare, its challenges, and evidence-based solutions.

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FOX8 On Your Side investigates the NC foster care system



Professor Mark Testa is featured in the TV news story, “FOX8 On Your Side investigates the NC foster care system”

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Research Grants (2)

Wisconsin Subsizied Guardianship Waiver Evaluation

Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services under a sub-contract with Westat, Inc, $30, 000


Wisconsin Subsizied Guardianship Waiver Evaluation. Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services under a sub-contract with Westat, Inc, $30,000, PI.

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Illinois Supplement to the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW),

Casey Family Programs $200,000


Illinois Supplement to the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW), Casey Family Programs, $200,000, Principal Investigator (PI).

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Courses (3)

Advanced Child Welfare (SW 580)

This MSW-level course examined scientific concepts, laws, ethical dilemmas, and new practice directions with respect to protecting children, preserving families, ensuring placement stability and continuity of substitute care, safeguarding child well-being, achieving family permanence, and assisting foster youth in making the transition to independent adulthood. Contemporary topics and issues were discussed and debated, such as actuarial risk assessment, intensive family preservation, inter-country adoption, class-action litigation, kinship foster care, racial disproportionality, parental drug abuse, and disadvantaged communities and child neglect.

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Quantitative Research Designs (SW 595):

This Ph.D.-level course provides an overview of quantitative designs and conceptual issues in social work research. It presents a framework for structuring the systematic evaluation and statistical analysis of the efficacy and effectiveness of social interventions in achieving desired outcomes for diverse populations.

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Evidence-Based Practice (SOWO 510):

This MSW-level course facilitates students’ development of knowledge of evidence-based practice, including skills needed to identify, acquire and assess appropriate interventions for practice and basic skills required to evaluate their own social work practice. The course is a hybrid class that includes a combination of in-person class sessions and on-line lessons.

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Articles (5)

Propensity score matching of children in kinship and non-kinship foster care: Do permanency outcomes still differ?

Social Work Research,

2008 ABSTRACT: This study compares the permanency outcomes of children in kinship foster care with a matched sample of children in nonkinship foster care in Illinois. It addresses the issue of selection bias by using propensity score matching (PSM) to balance mean differences ...

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African American males in foster care and the risk of delinquency: The value of social bonds and permanence

Child Welfare

2008 ABSTRACT: Juvenile delinquency remains a significant problem for child welfare systems throughout the United States. Victims of child abuse and neglect are more likely relative to children in the general population to engage in delinquency...

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Child maltreatment and juvenile delinquency: Investigating the role of placement and placement instability

Children and Youth Services Review

2005 ABSTRACT: Children who experience maltreatment are at increased risk of engaging in delinquent behavior. Although little is known about the mechanisms responsible for this increased risk, the use of substitute care placement and placement instability are often identified as ...

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Organizational commitment, job satisfaction, and effort in the service environment

The Journal of Psychology

2001 ABSTRACT: Investigations of the causal relationship between organizational commitment and job satisfaction have yielded contradictory findings. Little empirical research has looked at this complex relationship in the context of work effort. The purpose of this study was to ...

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Employment and marriage among inner-city fathers

The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science

1989 ABSTRACT: This article uses data from the Urban Poverty and Family Structure Survey of inner-city residents in Chicago to examine the effect of employment on the likelihood that single fathers marry. Our results show that employed fathers are twice as likely as nonemployed ...

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