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Ramona Denby-Brinson

Professor, Greenspun College of Urban Affairs School of Social Work

Senior Resident Scholar of Social Services, The Lincy Institute

Expertise: Child Welfare, Children's Mental Health, Juvenile Justice


Ramona W. Denby-Brinson is a Professor at the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs in the School of Social Work. She has taught for more than 20 years at the undergraduate and graduate levels. She is also the Senior Resident Scholar of Social Services with The Lincy Institute. Since joining the UNLV faculty, Denby-Brinson has served as Director of the Bachelor of Social Work Program and Associate Dean for Research.

She is an expert in child welfare, children’s mental health, juvenile justice, and culturally specific delivery of social services. She is the author of numerous peer-reviewed publications including two recent books: Kinship Care: Increasing Child Well-being through Practice, Policy, and Research (2015); and African American Children and Families in Child Welfare (2013). As an expert in child welfare services, programs, and policy, she has been competitively awarded more than $13 million in state, federal, and foundation grants to conduct empirical research and to train child welfare practitioners and mental health interventionists. Denby-Brinson has presented numerous conference papers, both invited and peer reviewed, on the topic of kinship care. One of the federal grants, Caring Communities, for which Denby-Brinson and her team received an amount of $2.5 million, enabled her to design and test the effectiveness of a peer-to-peer kinship caregiver support model. Currently, Denby-Brinson is teaming with the Clark County Department of Family Services and other community partners to conclude a five-year, longitudinal study to reduce teen pregnancy rates among children in Nevada’s foster care system. The project helped nearly 200 foster teens and their caregivers to develop skills that alleviate psychological barriers and increase relational competencies. Inspired by more than 10 years as a practicing social worker, Denby-Brinson developed a child welfare sequence and related curricula that established graduate-level education for future child welfare practitioners. Recently, she has been working to develop curricula and projects that focus on workforce development in the area of children’s mental health.

A staunch community advocate, Denby-Brinson has used her research to inspire change and as outreach to build capacity in community programs and services for vulnerable populations. Her work has been recognized and celebrated. Denby-Brinson is the recipient of multiple national and local awards including the prestigious Harry Reid Silver State Research Award in 2014 and the Clark County Child Welfare Advocate of the Year in 2015.


  • Ph.D., Social Work, Ohio State University

  • M.S.W., University of Nevada, Las Vegas
  • B.S.W., Arizona State University

Ramona Denby-Brinson In The News

Mar 14, 2017

“My father could no longer handle me. It was like his parenting skills were ‘I’m going to beat his head in’ or ‘I’m just going to leave him at home by himself,’ ” said Richard Demarko Brown, painting a picture of his 17-year-old case file.

Dec 15, 2015

One by one, they entered a UNLV auditorium, escaping the chilly December air. They had come to discuss the mental health of Southern Nevada’s children.

Nov 17, 2015

Just before her two children arrive home on a September evening, Colleen McKenna sinks into her couch, seemingly ready to relax in yoga pants. But the three-inch binder, stuffed to the gills, sitting on her lap belies the scene.

Jun 3, 2015
Ramona Denby-Brinson, a social work professor within the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs, became the first female researcher to win UNLV’s top annual research award: the Harry Reid Silver State Research Award. She was recognized for her work on social services, the foster system and children’s mental health.

Articles Featuring Ramona Denby-Brinson

DREAMR research team
Feb 26, 2016

Vulnerable youth have a friend in Ramona Denby-Brinson, the 2015 Harry Reid Silver State Research Award winner.

Ramona Denby-Brinson
Apr 27, 2015
Campus News

Ramona Denby-Brinson of the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs recognized for her work on social services, the foster system, and children’s mental health.

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