Tonya Bibbs, PhD, MSW, was drawn to social work both by what the field didn’t offer as well as what it did.
“In my clinical practice, I found little research that spoke to the children and families I worked with, who were often people of color, recent immigrants, and individuals whose first language wasn’t English,” she says. “I wanted to contribute to that body of knowledge.”
Through her teaching, she encourages students to take an interdisciplinary approach to social work, applying knowledge about child development as well as socioeconomic, cultural, and institutional factors that impact children and families. In her courses, students engage in deep discussions about cultural variation, factors such as ethnicity, class, and immigration status that play a role in how children develop — the same factors that drive her research.
Her research focuses on how socioeconomic, cultural, and institutional factors impact children and families, and one of her goals is to establish knowledge about normative development in minority children, particularly African-Americans. Her work includes a study of children’s developmental outcomes in socioeconomically mixed communities and how adults in these environments approach aspects of their relationships with children, such as discipline.
She also served as a member of the planning group that developed Erikson’s one-of-a-kind Master of Social Work program, the only program in the United States that infuses a social work curriculum with a deep understanding of child development. In addition, she was instrumental in Erikson’s Austin Community Early Learning Partnership Needs Assessment, an examination of early childhood services in a Chicago neighborhood affected by poverty and violence. The research team’s findings contributed to the establishment of new services in the community, including a satellite therapy office for Erikson’s Center for Children and Families, which brings mental health services for young children and their families closer to a population in need.
- PhD in child development, Erikson Institute/Loyola University Chicago
- MSW, Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Chicago
- B.A Literature Science and the Arts, University of Iowa, Iowa City 1990
Areas of Expertise
- Family support systems
- Young children in child welfare
- Minority children’s acquisition of social knowledge
- Family and community engagement
- Workforce development
- 2019 – Heising-Simons Foundation. Advancing early childhood education equity in California
- 2019 – McCormick Foundation. Developing a scale for Youth Political Efficacy Measurement
- 2018 – Private Funder. Promoting Black Family Resilience in Early Childhood.
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- 2019 – Leading with racial equity: promoting Black family resilience in early childhood. Journal of Family Social Work, 22(4-5), 315-332.
- 2018 – Care dialogues: shifting family engagement from risks to rights in the USA. International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy, 12(1), 16.
International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy, 12(1), 16.
- 2015 – “Black Mothers’ Ethnotheories of Moral Development: A Client-Centered Approach” in Qualitative Social Work, December 23, 90-101.
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- 2017 – Cross-Sector Collaboration in Safe Baby Court. McCormick Foundation Executive Fellows Program. Chicago, October 12.
- 2017 – Racial Equity in Early Childhood Policy. Barbara Bowman Fellows Symposium. Chicago, June 16.
- 2017 – The Influence of Culture on Mental Health Treatment, Lurie’s Children’s Hospital, Chicago, March 7.
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Related professional experience
- Power of Fathers Evaluation Advisory Group, Track Chair, Human Behavior in the Social Environment. Three-year appointment. 2017-2020
- Jane Addams Resource Center: Two-Generation Advisory Panel 2015–2017
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