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Ramona Denby-Brinson


Ramona Denby-Brinson, dean, UNC School of Social Work


Tate-Turner-Kuralt Building

Suite 303

325 Pittsboro Street

Campus Box 3550

Chapel Hill, NC 27599

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Ramona Denby-Brinson, Ph.D., has served as dean of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work since August 2021. Her academic career to date spans nearly three decades, including leadership roles at The Ohio State University (as associate dean of academic affairs) and Arizona State University (as associate dean of research). She also held academic, research, and administrative roles at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served for nearly 20 years and was a co-creator of The Lincy Institute. She began her career at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she was a researcher at the first-ever National Institutes of Health-funded social work research center of children’s mental health services.

She is recognized as one of the preeminent national experts in culturally adapted child welfare services and a leading scholar in kinship care. She has authored or edited five books, including “Child and Family-Serving Systems: A Compendium of Policy and Practice,” “Kinship Care: Increasing Child Well-Being through Practice, Policy, and Research,” and “African American Children and Families in Child Welfare: Cultural Adaptation of Services.”

To date, Denby-Brinson has been awarded more than $35.5 million in competitive grants, including federal funding to conduct research related to child and family well-being from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Health Resources and Services Administration, the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health and The Duke Endowment.

She studies the mental health and well-being of African American children and families and is co-author of “Mental Health Care in the African American Community: A Life Course Perspective.” She has led significant mental health workforce development efforts in multiple states. Her academic contributions, community engaged scholarship and service have been recognized via multiple awards including the Champion for Children Award, Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) and the 2014 Harry Reid Silver State Research Award.

Throughout her professional career, Denby-Brinson has demonstrated a commitment to communities through work that not only fosters intellectual discoveries but also builds the capacity of nonprofit and community agencies and organizations to address local and national mental health and child welfare challenges.

Denby-Brinson is incoming president and has served as treasurer of the Society for Social Work and Research, as president of the National Association of Social Workers Nevada Chapter, and as a board member for the National Family Preservation Network, among other offices. She is a licensed social worker and, prior to her academic career, she served children and families in various social service settings, including medical social work, substance use disorders counseling, family counseling, and public guardianship.

Degrees and Licenses

Ph.D., The Ohio State University
MSW, University of Nevada Las Vegas
BSW, Arizona State University



Research and Professional Interests

Child- and family-serving systems
Kinship care
Culturally specific service delivery
Children's mental health

Principal Investigator

Building Capacity, Competencies, and Interdisciplinary Collaborative Teams to Serve Children in Need of Integrated Behavioral Health Care
The State of Arizona Interagency Pregnancy and Parenting Assistance Program
Southern Nevada Substance Use Disorders Training Project

Recent Publications

Wu, Q., Mendoza, N., Denby, R., Klein, A., & Haran, H. (In press). Kinship caregivers’ age and its relationship with stress and strain: Risk or protective factor. Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research.

Gomez, E., Alford, K., Denby, R., Klein, A. (2020). Implementing smartphone technology to support relational competence: A service provider perspective. Journal of Social Work Practice. DOI: 10.1080/02650533.2020.1843145

Alford, K. A., Denby, R., Gomez, E. (2019). Use of smartphone technology in foster care to build relational competence: Voices of caregivers and implications for prudent parenting. Journal of Family Social Work, 22(3), 209–230.

Hunt, S. M, Denby, R. W., Hertlein, K. M., Lefforge, N. Paul. M. G. (2019). A university-based transdisciplinary approach to mental health workforce shortages. Community Mental Health Journal, 55(5), 742–749.

Denby, R., Testa, M., Alford, K. A., Cross, C., & Brinson, J. (2017). Protective factors as mediators and moderators of risk effects on perceptions of child well-being in kinship care. Child Welfare Journal – Special Issue on Kinship Care, 95(3), 111–136.