Ramona Denby Brinson, Ph.D.

Senior Resident Scholar of Social Services


Dr. Ramona Denby-Brinson is the senior resident scholar of social services with The Lincy Institute at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) and professor in the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs School of Social Work. She joined the UNLV faculty in 1998 and has served as Associate Dean for Research, Director of the college’s research center, the Center for Urban Partnerships – CUP, and the Director of the Bachelor of Social Work Program.

Her scholarly interests involve policy, programming, and treatment issues relevant to children and families, direct practice, human behavior, child welfare, children’s mental health, juvenile justice and culturally-specific service delivery. She has served in the role of researcher, trainer, evaluator, practitioner, educator, coach, and consultant for a host of child welfare topic areas including foster care, kinship care, adoption, guardianship, family preservation, sexual exploitation, mental health, and substance abuse. Recognized as one of the leading national experts in culturally-adapted child welfare services, Dr. Denby-Brinson has published extensively on the topic.

Denby Brinson is the 2011 recipient of the New York City Trust Silberman grant, one of six faculty researchers chosen for the nationally competitive award, recognizing her highly regarded research in the area of child welfare. She co-authored and is currently facilitating a $2.5 million federal grant funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant launched a five-year project to reduce teen pregnancy rates among children who are aging out in Clark County’s foster care system. Her most recent book, African American Children and Families in Child Welfare: Cultural Adaptations of Services published by Columbia University Press, was released fall 2013.

Prior to her academic career, Denby-Brinson practiced as a licensed social worker serving children and families in various social service settings. Currently, Denby-Brinson utilizes her experience in social services to assist local nonprofits and public agencies in building their capacity to better serve their clients. Denby-Brinson has a diverse funding portfolio including federal, state, foundation, and university awards. Since 1998 she has secured over $10.5 million dollars in funding for research, services, and training on behalf of public and non-profit entities who serve the most vulnerable children and families.

Denby-Brinson completed her Ph.D. in social work at The Ohio State University in 1995. A native Las Vegan, she earned her MSW from UNLV and bachelors degree from Arizona State University.


I think of approaches to prevent children from entering the foster care system and then I test those approaches to make sure that they work for all children, including children of color. When children enter the foster care system or when they struggle with mental health challenges, my research uncovers ways to help them heal from those experiences.

Fields of Expertise

  • Child Welfare
  • Children's Mental Health
  • Juvenile Justice