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Paul Lanier named JIF associate director for child and family well-being

Paul Lanier, Ph.D. has been appointed as associate director for child and family well-being for the School of Social Work’s Jordan Institute for Families (JIF). The appointment was effective in January.

Lanier, a Wallace Kuralt Early Career Distinguished Associate Professor, will work closely with Sarah Verbiest, JIF director and a clinical professor, to develop and lead a vision for promoting the well-being of North Carolina children and families through evidence-based practice and policy. The Jordan Institute for Families was founded in 1996 by Michael Jordan and his family, including Jordan’s mother Deloris, with a focus on strengthening families across generations.

“As evidenced by his previous accomplishments and effective leadership, both within the School and in the community, Paul is well-positioned to build critical partnerships with state and local government, nonprofit organizations, and other academic partners, and identify appropriate roles as convener, partner, or leader in statewide and local child well-being initiatives,” said Dean Gary Bowen.

In the new role, Lanier will also create opportunities for School faculty and students to engage with and inform the North Carolina Early Childhood Action Plan, Bowen added.

Lanier, who joined the School of Social Work in 2013, is recognized as an expert in developing, evaluating, and scaling-up evidence-based prevention programs in child welfare, mental health, and early childhood systems. In addition to his faculty role at the School, he also serves as a research fellow with UNC’s Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research and as a faculty affiliate with the Injury Prevention Research Center. Most recently, he was invited to serve as a fellow at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute.

A graduate of the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis (Ph.D. ’13) and the UNC School of Social Work (MSW ’08), Lanier’s work has focused on engaging and supporting low-income families with young children, particularly new fathers. Notably, he recently led a statewide needs assessment of the North Carolina Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program.

Although joining the JIF team in a leadership role has been a long-time dream, Lanier said he is also humbled by the challenge the team faces, especially with so many families struggling in North Carolina.

“We will listen to and learn from families across the state so we know how our research can be used to build better systems,” Lanier said. “Our policy and practice solutions need to integrate areas of family well-being, including health, mental health, finances, education, and child care.”

Lanier said he looks forward to partnering with Verbiest, who has been leading this type of work in the state for years. As a team, they will focus on bringing together people with diverse perspectives from different systems and organizations to further build strong collaborative partnerships, he said.

“I’m fortunate to join a team with strong leadership and a clear vision,” Lanier said. “I’m excited to learn and ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work.”