The Advances in Child Maltreatment Prevention speaker series was created by Todd Herrenkohl, Marion Elizabeth Blue Professor of Children and Families. The speaker series features the work of leading prevention and child welfare scholars engaged in efforts to strengthen and reform child‑serving systems. The series provides a forum for new and emerging knowledge from the social sciences and the helping professions that can improve the health and well-being of vulnerable children and their families.
The abuse and neglect of our nation’s children is one of the pressing public health and social justice issues of our time. The events of the past year and a half, including a global pandemic and acute racial and civil unrest, have placed additional stressors on children, families, and communities. And, while risk factors have increased for millions of families, opportunities for social connection and other protective contexts have decreased. As we work to assure the conditions and contexts for health and wellbeing for children and families, it will be critical to integrate lessons from the past, the best available scientific evidence, and intentional strategies to forefront equity, and community and family expertise into our system design. In this presentation, Dr. Merrick will review the history of child abuse and neglect as a field, including the numerous opportunities that exist for truly prioritizing prevention, including the collective and comprehensive efforts that are required to assure health, wellbeing, and prosperity for our nation.
Melissa T. Merrick, PhD, is President and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America (PCA America), the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit organization dedicated to the primary prevention of child abuse and neglect. She has more than 20 years of clinical, research, and leadership experience related to the etiology, course, and prevention of child abuse and neglect.
Previously, Dr. Merrick was a senior epidemiologist at the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in Atlanta. She is recognized as one of the country’s foremost experts on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs): in partnership with the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Child Abuse and Neglect, she served for 8 years as the lead scientist for the ACEs study at CDC and is the lead author of CDC’s Vital Signs: ACEs, the most nationally representative report on the topic.
Dr. Merrick successfully leverages her significant clinical and research experiences to communicate and disseminate the critical public health importance of preventing early adversity to key stakeholders with diverse priorities, backgrounds, and knowledge, including legislators, business and civic leaders, and members of the academic and medical communities. She is one of the principal architects of Thriving Families, Safer Children: A National Commitment to Well-being, an effort that aims to reshape child welfare in the United States by focusing explicitly on equity and prevention. Thriving Families unites PCA America, the Children’s Bureau, Annie E. Casey Foundation, and Casey Family Programs, among numerous other local partners, to proactively create the conditions and contexts for strong families and communities across the country.
Dr. Merrick received her BA in psychology, magna cum laude, from the University of Pennsylvania, and her master’s and doctoral degrees in clinical psychology from the San Diego State University/University of California, San Diego, joint doctoral program in clinical psychology, where she served as a program coordinator for the San Diego site of the Longitudinal Studies on Child Abuse and Neglect consortium. Dr. Merrick was a National Institutes of Health-funded postdoctoral fellow at the University of Miami Child Protection Team (CPT), where she was involved in a multi-site program of research that examined child maltreatment risk and protective factors in families evaluated by CPTs across the state of Florida.
Dr. Merrick is married and has two young children who are still enthralled by the novelty of snow in Chicago.
University of Michigan
School of Social Work
1080 South University Avenue
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1106