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Emily Putnam-Hornstein

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

Emily Putnam-Hornstein


Tate-Turner-Kuralt Building


325 Pittsboro Street

Chapel Hill, NC 27599

M: 917-282-7861

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

For nearly two decades, Emily has partnered with public agencies to carry out applied research to inform child welfare policy and practice. 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. Her research has been published in journals such as JAMA Pediatrics, Health Affairs, American Journal of Public Health, and Pediatrics. Media coverage of her work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Wired, the Los Angeles Times, Mother Jones, and the Netflix documentary, The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez. 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.

Research Assistant, Kelsey Cohn:

View Emily’s Profile on Google Scholar

Degrees and Licenses

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

Research and Professional Interests

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

Recent Publications

Rebbe R, Reddy J, Huang JS, Kuelbs CL, & Putnam-Hornstein E. (2023). Counts and child protection reports of diagnosed child maltreatment before and after the COVID-19 pandemic onset. Child Abuse & Neglect, 146, 106450.

Putnam-Hornstein E, Foust R, Cuccaro-Alamin, Prindle J, Nghiem HT, & Palmer L. (2023)A population-based study of mental health diagnoses and child protection system involvement among Medicaid-insured children. Journal of Pediatrics, 252, 117-123.

Prindle J, Suthar H, & Putnam-Hornstein E. (2023). An open-source probabilistic record linkage process for family level records: simulation study and applied analysis. PLoS ONE, 18(10): e0291581

Palmer L, Eastman AL, Font S, & Putnam-Hornstein E. (2022). What does child protective services investigate as neglect? A population-based study. Child Maltreatment, 29(1): 96-105.

Putnam-Hornstein E, Prindle J, & Hammond I. (2021). Engaging families in voluntary prevention services to reduce future child abuse and neglect: a randomized controlled trial. Prevention Science, 22(7), 856–865.

Presentations, Workshops and Media

Putnam-Hornstein E. (2023, October). Invited Panelist, “Technology and Human Services”: National Governor’s Center for Best Practices Annual Health and Human Services Institute. Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Putnam-Hornstein E. (2022, November). Invited Speaker, “Using Administrative Data to Inform Programs, Protect Children, and Support Families”: Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Putnam-Hornstein E. (2022, June). Invited Speaker, Decisions, Assessment, Risk & Evidence in Social Work, 6th International Symposium. Ulster, Northern Ireland.

Putnam-Hornstein E. (2022, April). Invited Speaker, “Data. Numbers. And what lawyers et. al. should be talking about”. American Bar Association Center for Children and the Law. Tysons Corner, VA.


SOWO 832

Child Welfare Policy