From her first undergraduate social work course, Ashley Curry, PhD, LCSW, knew this was her calling. Whether working one-on-one with clients or preparing a new generation of social workers, she has always paid close attention to the impact of her work on children and families.
“As a social worker, you have to put so much of yourself into your work, and in order to do that, you have to have self-awareness,” Dr. Curry says. “I’ve always given a great deal of thought to what I bring to my work from my own background. And at Erikson, I ask my students to do the same.”
She stresses to her students the importance of reflective practice, a core component of the Erikson experience. At Erikson, students learn to examine themselves — their own assumptions, biases, and experiences — in order to best help children and families. In fact, Dr. Curry launched a study to examine this process at the institution, along with her colleague Pamela Epley. Their findings show that principles of reflective practice and reflective supervision, as institutionalized at Erikson, impact the personal and professional development of students and recent alumni in a variety of meaningful ways.
Dr. Curry’s other research centers around the experiences of youth in the child welfare system. “One of my primary interests is the therapeutic relationships that children develop with professionals, such as social workers, therapists, and even paraprofessionals like mentors,” she says. “We know from the psychotherapy literature that the therapeutic relationship is a significant predictor of positive client outcomes. The child welfare system, however, presents multiple barriers to relationship-building. Which is why I believe studying relationships within that context is especially important.”
Her research explores how relationships between young people and child welfare professionals support their emotional and relational development. As well as the ways in which organizational dynamics, such as turnover, disrupt those relationships, and ultimately impact young peoples’ emotional and relational development in problematic ways.
Dr. Curry teaches a variety of foundation and advanced practice courses, facilitates reflective practice supervision seminars, and serves as the faculty chair for the Institute’s Social Justice Coalition Steering Committee. Prior to joining Erikson, she spent over 15 years practicing social work within the fields of child welfare and mental health.
- PhD, School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago
- MSW, School of Social Work, Loyola University Chicago
- BSW, Department of Social Work, Central Missouri State University
Areas of Expertise
- Children’s experiences of child welfare services
- Organizational context of social work practice, especially worker turnover
- Relational approaches to social work practice
- Principal Investigator, Improving the Effects and Processes of Turnover in Child Welfare: Lessons Learned from Administrators, Workers, and Youth
- Principal Investigator, Developing Reflective Practice Capacities for Work with Children and Families (with Pamela Epley, PhD)
- Co-Investigator, Envisioning Developmentally Informed Case Managers in Child Welfare: A Pilot Study of Illinois (with Tonya Bibbs, PhD)
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- Curry, A. (2019). “If you can’t be with this client for some years, don’t do it”: Exploring the emotional and relational effects of turnover on youth in the child welfare system. Children and Youth Services Review, 99, 374-385.
- Curry, A. & Epley, P. (2018). We’re in a bubble of best practice! Exploring the development of reflective practice capacities among child development and social work graduate students. Executive summary & research report, Erikson Institute, Chicago, IL.
- Havlicek, J., Curry, A., & Villalpando, F. (2018). Youth participation in foster youth advisory boards: Perspectives of facilitators. Children and Youth Services Review, 84, 255-270.
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- Curry, A. & Epley, P. (2018, March). “It’s difficult, but worth it!”: Exploring child development and social work graduate students’ experiences of developing reflective practice capacities. Erikson Institute, Applied Child Development Seminar, Chicago, IL.
- Curry, A. (2018, February). Through a child’s eyes: How to build meaningful relationships with children in your care. Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona, Keynote Speaker, Road to Resilience Partner Agency Conference, Phoenix, AZ.
- Curry, A. (2018, January). “I don’t want a new worker. Where’s my old worker?:” Relationship disruptions between young people and their child welfare professionals. Annual Conference of the Society for Social Work Research, Washington, D.C.
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Related Professional Experience
- Licensed clinical social worker
- Practice experience within a variety of community-based, outpatient, residential, and inpatient treatment settings
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