About Elspeth

Dr. Slayter is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Work who does disability services research related to addictions and child welfare.  She has taught both social policy, internship seminar and research courses at Salem State since 2005.  During the 2013-2014 academic year, Dr. Slayter is a Fellow in the Advanced Leadership in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Program at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center of the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Dr. Slayter obtained both a master’s and doctoral degree in social policy from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University where her scholarship focused on the disability and health policy arenas.  During her time at Heller, Dr. Slayter was a pre-doctoral trainee supported by the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA) and an American Fellow supported by the American Association of University Women (AAUW).  Dr. Slayter received her Master’s degree in social work at New York University in 1995 after completing her undergraduate work in history (with a focus on women’s studies, medical history and medical anthropology) at Macalester College in 1990.

Prior to her doctoral work, between 1995-2000, Dr. Slayter practiced as a forensic social worker in a variety of court-based settings in New York City. These settings included Washington Square Legal Services, where Dr. Slayter partnered with New York University law students in the co-representation of parents charged with child abuse and/or neglect. Dr. Slayter went on to work as a social worker and educational consultant for the Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Division in Brooklyn, where she partnered with guardians ad litem in the representation of children on cases related to child protection, juvenile justice and special education law. Dr. Slayter also worked as a social worker in partnership with public defenders at The Bronx Defenders, an early adopter of the “holistic advocacy” model of criminal defense. In the Bronx, Dr. Slayter developed a special interest in the behavioral health concerns of people with disabilities (especially people with intellectual disabilities).

Professional Interests

Dr. Slayter’s research agenda addresses disability and child welfare services research in the following areas:

–Implementation of the “dignity of risk” concept for people with disabilities

–Access to care, quality of care and pathways to and through health and social care services for people with disabilities in the United States

–Human service workforce development in the disability and child welfare sectors

–Child protection social work with immigrant children and families in the United States (with Dr. Katrin Kriz, Emmanuel College)

Dr. Slayter’s research has been published in a range of peer-reviewed journals (see selected publications, below).  Additionally, Dr. Slayter has presented her research at a range of domestic and international conferences in both sociology, social work, psychology and public health.

Responsibilities at Salem State University’s School of Social Work

Elspeth presentingDr. Slayter has taught in the areas of social policy and research methods (introductory and advanced) and field education. While at Salem State, Dr. Slayter has developed and taught courses on social work with people with disabilities and child, youth and family policy. Each year, Dr. Slayter teaches a child welfare-specific applied research course for MSW students employed as child protection caseworkers. Additionally, Dr. Slayter is a regular guest lecturer in bachelor’s level social work courses.

Since 2006, Dr. Slayter has conducted a range of technical and research assistance activities for the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families in lieu of one course per semester.  In the past, Dr. Slayter has also taught introductory social welfare policy as an adjunct instructor at Boston College’s School of Social Work and a course on qualitative research methods for public policy research at the United Nations University-MERIT program in the Netherlands.

Within the School of Social Work at Salem State, Dr. Slayter has held positions such as the chair of the School’s research sequence, former chair and current member of the School’s curriculum committee and a member of the School’s technology committee. Dr. Slayter also chaired the ad-hoc doctoral program committee in summer and fall 2012.  Dr. Slayter’s university-wide service has included membership on the NEASC re-accreditation sub-committee on strategic planning as well as committees focused on the University’s website development, parking challenges, universal design in instruction and graduate-level research.

Other professional activities:

2013-2014: (Sabbatical year) Advanced Leadership Fellowship from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Maternal and Child Health Bureau at the University of Massachusetts’ Medical School’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center and the Moakley Center for Public Management at Suffolk University’s Sawyer School of Business.

2010-2012: Member, National Council on Disability and Persons with Disabilities, Council on Social Work Education, Washington, DC.

2008-2010:  Member, Task Force on Maximizing Social Worker Safety, National Association of Social Workers – Massachusetts Chapter, Boston, MA.

2009-present: Member, Human Rights Committee, The Northeast Arc, Danvers, MA.

2009-2011: Manuscript Reviewer, Women’s Health Issues,Journal of Public Child Welfare & Children & Youth Services Review; Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Journal of Behavioral Health Services Research

2006-present:  Manuscript Reviewer,Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities,

2006-present: Reviewer for research and evaluation track, Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) Annual Program Meeting

2003-present:  Reviewer for disability section, American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting

A bit on my life before academia…

I received a B.A. in History (with a focus on medical history, medical anthropology and women’s studies) from Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota. My choice to study medical history and anthropology was largely informed by my involvement as an intern at both the Upper Midwest Women’s History Center (now part of The Clio Project) and with Cultural Survival, Inc. I also did a small study on cross-cultural conflict between western biomedically-focused health care providers and (then-new) Hmong immigrants from Laos (an issue which has since been well-described in the wonderful book by Ann Fadiman, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down). Inspired by travel to the former Soviet Union in 1984 and 1985 (Russiaand Georgia) and Spain, I also studied these two languages while at “Mac.”

My first job out of college was with the University of Minnesota YW (a YWCA affiliate ) as a Program Coordinator within a unique collective stewardship structure. At the U-YW, I worked on community organizing projects related to the elimination of racism, sexism and homophobia. After leaving Minnesota, I went on to work as a Development Associate for Cambridge College, a small, adult education-focused college in Cambridge, Massachusetts. These post-college foundational experiences further informed my professional commitment to social justice.

Later, I studied for an M.S.W. from New York University’s Shirley M. Ehrenkranz School of Social Work, where I trained with Metropolitan Hospital Center’s HIV/AIDS inpatient team and with New York University School of Law’s Family Defense Clinic. At the Clinic, I partnered with law students representing parents, grandparents and foster parents charged with abuse or neglect in the New York City Family Courts. While a social work student, I was also involved with the Student Social Work Action Coalition (SSWAC) which was active in the anti-welfare reform movement of the mid-1990s.

After receiving my M.S.W., I practiced as a forensic social worker from 1995-2000. During this time, I first partnered with attorneys at the Juvenile Rights Division (JRD) of the Legal Aid Society in Brooklyn, New York . At JRD, attorney-social worker teams represented youth in special education settings, youth charged with juvenile delinquency or status offenses (i.e. CHINS, or PINS cases in Massachusetts parlance) and subject children on abuse, neglect, custody and/or adoption cases. Work conducted at JRD consisted of investigation, assessment, case management, systems navigation and both education law and court-based advocacy.

Later, interested in building a bridge between family court and criminal court practice, I went on to work for The Bronx Defenders, an alternative, community-based public defender office in the South Bronx. Here, I partnered with attorneys representing adult criminal defendants using a “holistic advocacy” co-representation approacharticle by Robin Steinberg on this topic). At the Bronx Defenders, my work involved crisis counseling and assessment, intensive case management, inter-system navigation with regard to child protection concerns and both court and community-based advocacy.

During this time, I began to specialize in working with people with disabilities who had co-occurring behavioral health conditions and became interested in the challenges of inter-system collaboration. Interested in moving beyond individual-level advocacy, I decided to build my research and policy analysis skills.
I moved back home to Boston and later received a Ph.D. in social policy (focusing on behavioral health services research) from Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management where I was a National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (N.I.A.A.A. ) pre-doctoral trainee and anAmerican Fellow with the National Association of University Women (A.A.U.W.). While a doctoral student at Heller, I worked on projects related to childhood injury among Medicaid beneficiaries , access to health insurance among Spanish-speaking immigrants to the United States and substance abuse among people with disabilities. Building on my most challenging problems at The Bronx Defenders, my dissertation research examined access to substance abuse treatment among people with mental retardation/intellectual disabilities.