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"Improving Children’s Safety, Well-being and Permanency through Evidence-Based Practice, Research and Evaluation"
The System Improvement & Research Section

"Improving Children’s Safety, Well-being and Permanency through Evidence-Based Practice, Research and Evaluation"
"Research serves to make building stones out of stumbling blocks."

Arthur D. Little

About Us

Walter Yu-lung Kiang, Ph.D., MSW, MS – Children Services Administrator III

Dr. Kiang brings a wealth of prestige and expertise in the field of social work to DCFS. He was the founder of the first School of Social Work at Tunghai University in 1979 and established the first Ph.D. program in Sociology in Taiwan in 1981. Dr. Kiang first joined DCFS as a children’s social worker in 1986 and promoted to a supervising children’s social worker shortly thereafter. In 1995, Dr. Kiang took a two years leave of absence from DCFS to bring his social work expertise to Taiwan and serve as the Executive Director of the Christian Children’s Fund in Taiwan, the largest non-profit organization in Taiwan. His goal was to establish a Family Preservation program and develop new services for children and families in need, and he did just that.

Upon returning to DCFS from his leave of absence, Dr. Kiang’s exceptional accomplishments in Taiwan and social work skills earned him the role of Children Services Administrator for the Family Preservation and Support Programs. He has continued to thrive within DCFS and has lent his support and expertise to several divisions and programs. Dr. Kiang currently serves as the Research Section Manager where he continues to impart his knowledge of social work and research to improve outcomes for children and families.

Dr. Kiang has an extensive educational background. He was the Senior Fullbright Scholar at the University of Pittsburgh Department of Sociology from Taiwan, which was sponsored by the US State Department from September 1976 to August 1977. He received his MS in Rural Sociology from National Taiwan University in 1968. He later received a German Governmental Scholarship to earn his Ph.D. in Sociology in 1974 from the University of Goettingen in Germany. Upon returning to the US, Dr. Kiang continued to pursue social work where he earned his MSW from the USC School of Social Work. He also served as a part-time lecturer in the School of Social Work and a chairperson on the School Advisory Board at the California State University of Los Angeles.

Dr. Kiang’s remarkable background and leadership skills have allowed him to establish innovative practices and work ethics within the Research Section. His research interests include any and all things related to child safety, permanency, and well-being. In particular, Dr. Kiang’s priority areas are: 1) child abuse, 2) child welfare services, 3) foster care, 4) adoption, and 5) the organization, financing, and evaluation of child welfare services.

Sophia H. Lee, MS – Chief Research Analyst

Ms. Lee has been with DCFS since February, 2014, after seven years as a Chief Research Analyst in Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services.

Her primary interests include data science, data mining, strategic planning, program evaluation, racial disparities in health and education, and research methods. Ms. Lee presented her studies on elder abuse, prison violence, motivation of joining a gang, racial disparities in health, and strategic planning at professional associations such as the American Sociological Association (ASA), the Southern California Research Forum, and the National Association for Welfare Research and Statistics (NAWRS). She also has GIS mapping skills.

Ms. Lee received a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree in sociology from California State University, Los Angeles. She graduated with Honors, was on the Dean’s list, and received an award for recognition of superior scholastic achievement from California State University, Los Angeles. She worked as a teaching associate for the Department of Sociology at California State University, Los Angeles. She received an award from the ASA Honors Program for scholarly practice and achievement from California State University, Los Angeles. She received a funding award and participated as a consultant in the NAWRS Research Academy as part of the Advancing Welfare and Family Self-Sufficiency Research Project.

Tia Peterson Gilchrist, Ph.D. – Research Analyst III

Dr. Gilchrist earned her Ph.D. in Psychology and Social Behavior with an emphasis on Psychology and Law at the University of California, Irvine. Prior to completing her Ph.D., she earned a Master’s in Social Ecology at the University of California at Irvine and a Master’s in Psychology at California State University, Bakersfield.

She began her Los Angeles County service as a Research Analyst II with the Department of Mental Health’s Emergency Outreach Bureau. After three years of data analysis for the ACCESS call center and the School Threat Assessment Response Team, in 2016, Dr. Gilchrist joined DCFS’s System Improvement and Research Section. Prior to entering public service, Dr. Gilchrist was employed as trial consultant.

Dr. Gilchrist’s research interests are varied and have spanned the field of psychology from personality traits, to memory, to psychology and law. The one unifying theme throughout her research is endeavoring to make a difference. At the Department of Children and Family Services, Dr. Gilchrist’s goal is to conduct research that supports the departmental mission of improving child safety, permanency, and well being.

Candice Rivas, Ph.D. – Research Analyst III

Ms. Rivas joined DCFS in 2013. Prior to joining DCFS, she has been working in Los Angeles County’s Department of Public Health for five years where she supervised staff and managed the department’s HIV/AIDS and STD data collection efforts.

Her research interests include the health and well-being of African-American children and families, child development, and addressing systemic and organizational issues to promote growth and equitable treatment for all. Candice’s current projects focus on the disproportionality of African-American children in the child welfare system, LGBTQ subject matters, the evaluation of independent living skills for Transitional Age Youth, and the evaluation of DCFS’ front-end processes.

Candice graduated from Cal State Los Angeles with a MA in Psychology. In the Fall of 2015, she received her Ph.D. in General Psychology from Capella University.


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