After nearly 30 years of service with UNC-Chapel Hill, clinical associate professor Tamara Norris is retiring, effective Jan. 1, 2022.
Norris, the director of the Family Support Program and Family Support Network™ of North Carolina (FSNNC) University Office, has spent much of her career focused on developing innovative approaches to advance the health and well-being of families and children, in particular promoting services and support for families with children who have disabilities and other special healthcare needs.
With expertise in program development and management of complex social change initiatives, she also served as a Community Management and Policy Practice Concentration field instructor for master’s in social work students.
“I am grateful for the many opportunities I have had to practice all aspects of macro social work and to work to improve outcomes for families and children across North Carolina,” she said.
A fellow at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, Norris served as a member of multiple state level committees tasked with improving outcomes for families and children.
During her tenure with UNC School of Social Work, Norris presented extensively on topics relating to supporting families and provided leadership in initiatives relating to alternatives to guardianship, work-life issues for parents with children who have disabilities, service navigation for families, statewide information and referral, and child welfare workforce development. As principal investigator on the Supporting Families with Children who have Special Needs project funded by the N.C. Division of Social Services, she directed funding and technical assistance to regional FSNNC affiliates providing family support services in North Carolina communities.
Norris joined the School in 1992 to help organize the Family and Children’s Resource Program (FCRP) and went on to hold positions within FCRP, including as director. She also held leadership roles with the N.C. Child Welfare Education Collaborative, the School’s field education office, and the Center for Aging Research and Educational Services.
“My work has taken me all across the state and led me to collaborate with faculty and professionals across many disciplines and with a wide range of state and national organizations and agencies,” Norris said. “I have always been proud [to represent] the UNC School of Social Work in community engagement initiatives that ‘moved the needle,’ ranging from child welfare to adult guardianship to services and supports for families with children who have special healthcare needs.”
Norris said she is especially proud to have mentored a number of MSW students who are now assuming leadership roles within the disability field in North Carolina and other states.
“And along the way I have had the privilege to name as colleagues the brightest, most committed group of social workers the [the School of Social Work] who have been my supporters, teachers, and friends,” she added.
Norris’ work will have a long-lasting impact on the state of North Carolina and beyond, praised School Dean Ramona Denby-Brinson.
“Thank you for your service not only to the School of Social Work, but to the hundreds of children and families whose lives were made better because of you,” she said.