hero image
Marlene Matarese, Ph.D. - University of Connecticut. Hartford, CT, US

Marlene Matarese, Ph.D.

Associate Research Professor | University of Connecticut


Marlene Matarese works to improve access to and the quality of systems and services for children and youth with public system involvement.


Marlene Matarese, Ph.D., is Deputy Director at the Innovations Institute and an Associate Research Professor at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work. Marlene has over 20 years of experience working at the individual, county, state, and national levels. She specializes in content focused on evidence-based and evidence-informed intervention design; and best practices in implementation science within the context of the public child-, youth-, and family-serving systems as well as LGBTQ+/sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, workforce development; and systems of care. The focus of her work has been improving access to and the quality of systems and services for children and youth with public system involvement. Marlene is the Principal Investigator (PI) for the National Quality Improvement Center on Tailored Services, Placement Stability, and Permanency for LGBTQ+ Children and Youth in Foster Care, and the National Quality Improvement Center on Family-Centered Reunification funded by the Children’s Bureau. She is also PI for the National Center for Youth with Diverse Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Expression and for the National Center of Excellence for LGBTQ+ Behavioral Health Equity, funded by SAMHSA. Marlene serves as PI on other national, large-scale initiatives including the design, implementation, and evaluation of numerous best practices. Her prior professional experiences include providing technical assistance nationally on youth involvement and, in partnership with a group of young people, organized and developed Youth MOVE National. She continues to champion the meaningful inclusion of youth in all levels of system design. Marlene also brings years of experience working directly with youth and their families as a care coordinator, clinician, personal counselor, and aide for youth with behavioral health needs. She holds her Ph.D. from the University of Maryland School of Social Work, and her MSW and BA from Rutgers.

Areas of Expertise (6)

Child Welfare

Juvenile Justice and Behavioral Health Systems

Family Reunification in Child Welfare

Implementation Science

Intervention Design and Evidence Based Practices

LGBTQ+ Community

Education (3)

University of Maryland, Baltimore Graduate School: Ph.D., Social Work

Rutgers University: M.S.W.

Rutgers University: B.A., Communication and Media Studies

Accomplishments (1)

Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Award, US Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (professional)








TTI 2022 Information Exchange: Responding to the Needs of LGBTQ+ Youth and their Families


Media Appearances (2)

Red Lake Nation's Ombimindwaa Gidanawemaaganinaadog Intergenerational Family Wellness Program awarded a 4-year grant for $1.5 million

Red Lake Nation News  online


Marlene Matarese, PhD, MSW, deputy director of the Institute and principal investigator for the grant expressed gratitude to the Children's Bureau for prioritizing the need to strengthen family relationships when a child enters foster care. "When the whole family receives the supports and services they need, they are more likely to achieve timely, stable, and lasting reunification. I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to reimagine child welfare through a focus on comprehensive, culturally responsive, family-centered, community-based solutions."

view more

National Coming Out Day: For many LGBTQ youth in foster care, 'coming out' isn't an option | Opinion

USA Today  online


National Coming Out Day is a celebration of the power of living openly as an LGBTQ+ person. LGBTQ+ people have celebrated this day for 33 years under the premise that queerphobia thrives in silence and invisibility. However, for many young people living in foster care, celebrating their identity openly could have dire consequences.

view more

Articles (6)

The influence of juvenile justice workforce’s knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs on behaviors toward youth with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, and expressions

Children and Youth Services Review

2023 The purpose of this study is to understand the influence that knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about youth with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, and expressions (SOGIE) may have on juvenile justice staff members’ provision of protection and support for these youth. When youth with diverse SOGIE are not protected by the workforce in charge of their care, they are at greater risk for poorer future outcomes as they transition into adulthood. Survey responses from 237 juvenile justice staff members in a mid-Atlantic state were examined using both univariate and multivariate analyses.

view more

Evaluation of a systems-level technical assistance program to support youth with complex behavioral health needs

Evaluation and Program Planning

2022 The National Technical Assistance Network for Children's Behavioral Health (TA Network) supports the development and implementation of Systems of Care (SOC) for youth with serious emotional disorders and their families in states, tribes, territories, and communities throughout the United States. The purpose of the current research was to conduct an evaluation of the TA Network to assess: The degree to which it has deployed research-based elements of TA; levels of participant satisfaction; types and scope of TA services provided; and systems-level outcomes. Study participants were drawn from a stratified random sample of SOC grant recipients who received technical support from the TA Network between 2013 and 2017.

view more

Attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of child welfare workers toward LGBTQ youth

Journal of Public Child Welfare

2021 This study explored workforce opinions toward LGBTQ youth and the LGBTQ community. A total of 1,196 child welfare employees answered a series of surveys measuring their attitudes, perception of climate, knowledge, and behaviors toward LGBTQ. Findings suggest that child welfare workers have adequate knowledge about the LGBTQ community and responses indicate the workforce has some potential to engage in supportive behaviors toward youth, but do not believe the child welfare climate is protective or supportive for LGBTQ youth and reported they “don’t know” how they feel about the LGBTQ population. Implications for practice and policy are presented.

view more

Preliminary effectiveness of an LGBTQ+ affirmative parenting intervention with foster parents

Children and Youth Services Review

2021 Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ+) youth are notably overrepresented in the foster care system, often entering the child welfare system because of abuse or neglect associated with familial rejection of youths’ sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression. LGBTQ+ foster youth are often exposed to identity-based victimization within the foster care system. There is a call for evidence-informed interventions aimed at improving the well-being of LGBTQ+ youth in systems of care. This study examines the initial effectiveness of AFFIRM Caregiver, a 7-session, manualized intervention aimed at enhancing affirmative parenting practices among foster parents. AFFIRM Caregiver was delivered to foster parents (n = 103) at two U.S. sites.

view more

Developing an Evidence-Based Technical Assistance Model: a Process Evaluation of the National Training and Technical Assistance Center for Child, Youth, and Family Mental Health

The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research

2020 The National Training and Technical Assistance Center for Child, Youth, and Family Mental Health (NTTAC) supports the development and implementation of systems of care (SOC) for youth with serious emotional disorders (SED) and their families. This article presents results from a process evaluation of NTTAC, conducted to support the Center's quality improvement and contribute to the knowledge base around provision of technical assistance (TA). The evaluation used a mixed methods approach with data collection focused on a defined subset of NTTAC TA recipients-recipients of federal Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services for Children SOC grants. Data sources included coded administrative records from SOC grant sites, administrative data from NTTAC, standardized measures of SOC development, and stakeholder survey data.

view more

Caregiver perceptions of Parent Peer Support Services within the Wraparound Service Delivery Model

Journal of Child and Family Studies

2017 This qualitative study examined caregivers’ perceptions of Parent Peer Support (PPS) services, embedded in the Wraparound service delivery model for youth with severe emotional and behavioral disturbances (SEBD), to identify potential engagement facilitators and barriers. Wraparound is a holistic process involving multiple formal and informal providers to collectively implement an individualized, family-centered plan of care focused on maintaining youth with SEBD within the community. PPS are frequently referred to caregivers involved in Wraparound to provide additional support. Caregivers (n = 35) previously involved in an evaluation of one state’s Wraparound model participated in a single 30–60-min interview.

view more