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Emily Putnam-Hornstein

John A. Tate Distinguished Professor for Children in Need
Co-Director Children's Data Network

Emily Putnam-Hornstein


Tate-Turner-Kuralt Building

325 Pittsboro Street

Chapel Hill, NC 27599

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Emily Putnam-Hornstein is the John A. Tate Distinguished Professor for Children in Need and the Director of Policy Practice at the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She also maintains appointments as a Distinguished Scholar at the University of Southern California where she co-directs the Children’s Data Network and as a research specialist with the California Child Welfare Indicators Project at UC Berkeley.

Emily’s current research focuses on the application of epidemiological methods to improve the surveillance of non-fatal and fatal child abuse and neglect. Her analysis of large-scale, linked administrative data has provided insight into where scarce resources may be most effectively targeted and informs understanding of maltreated children within a broader, population-based context. Her research has been used to develop risk stratification tools, including those implemented in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, and Los Angeles County, California. These tools support caseworkers and supervisors in reviewing hundreds of factors relevant to a child’s risk and safety when making initial screening and triaging decisions. Emily is the recipient of the Forsythe Award for Child Welfare Leadership from the National Association of Public Child Welfare Administrators and the Commissioner’s Award from the Children’s Bureau. Emily graduated from Yale University with a BA in Psychology, received her MSW from Columbia University, and earned her Ph.D. in Social Welfare from the University of California at Berkeley.

Degrees and Licenses

PhD, University of California at Berkeley
MSW, Columbia University
BA, Yale College

Primary Program

Family and Children's Resource Program

Research and Professional Interests

Child Abuse & Neglect
Non-Fatal and Fatal Child Injuries
Administrative Data
Record Linkage
Predictive Risk Modeling

Principal Investigator

The Children's Data Network: A University-Agency Data Linkage Project
Child Maltreatment Incidence Data Linkages: Methods to Estimate the Community Incidence of Child Maltreatment
Child Maltreatment Incidence Data Linkages: Using Hospital Data to Predict Child Maltreatment Risk


Using Emergency Department and Hospitalization Records to Document Domestic Violence, Child Abuse & Neglect, and Elder Abuse
Center for Innovation in Child Maltreatment Policy Research and Training: Project Data SMART
Linking Juvenile Probation and Child Welfare Records to Study Cross-Over Dynamics

Recent Publications

Putnam-Hornstei, E., Ghaly, M., & Wilkening, M. (2020). Integrating data to advance research, operations, and client-centered services in California. Health Affairs, 39(4), 655-661.

Vaithianathan, R., Putnam-Hornstein, E., Chouldechova, A., Benavides-Prada D. B., & Berger R. (2020). Hospital injury encounters of children identified by a predictive risk model for screening child maltreatment referrals: Evidence from the Allegheny Family Screening Tool. JAMA Pediatrics. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.2770

Palmer, L., Ahn, E., Traube, D., Prindle, J., & Putnam-Hornstein, E. (2020). Correlates of entry into congregate care among a cohort of California foster youth. Children & Youth Services Review, 110.

Brown, A., Chouldechova, A., Putnam-Hornstein, E., Tobin, A. & Vaithianathan, R. (2019). Toward algorithmic accountability in public service: A qualitative study of affected community perspectives on algorithmic decision-making in child welfare services. CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Science Proceedings, 1-12.

Vaithianathan, R., Rouland, B., & Putnam-Hornstein, E. (2019). Ethnic disparities in the prevalence of maltreatment: Evidence from New Zealand, 1998-2016. American Journal of Public Health, 109:1255–1257. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2019.305163)

Presentations, Workshops and Media

“The price of America’s inability to track child deaths from abuse and neglect? Sometimes, more lives” (Mother Jones, January 2020)

“Why doesn’t the U.S. have an accurate count of child-abuse deaths?” (The New Yorker, December 2019)

“Can an algorithm tell when kids are in danger?” (The New York Times, January 2018)

“Can an algorithm keep kids safe?” (Innovation Hub, June 2018)

Putnam-Hornstein E. (2019, June). Big data, little kids: how technology is changing child welfare. Invited Panelist, American Enterprise Institute: Washington, DC. (Panel with Rhema Vaithianathan, Gian Gonzaga, & Thea Ramirez)


SOWO 810

Evaluation of Social Interventions