Delegate at Large M: Christina Scanlon
CHRISTINA L. SCANLON is a doctoral candidate at the University of Pittsburgh where she studies applied developmental psychology and research methods in the School of Education’s Health and Human Development Department. She completed her undergraduate degrees in Psychology and English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After graduating, she relocated to the Pittsburgh area and began working in residential treatment services for youth contending with trauma, emotional and behavioral disorders, and developmental delays.
As she gained experience in the field, Christina began mentoring young adults through compassionate leadership, data-driven decision-making, and hands-on professional development opportunities. In 2009, she began her graduate studies at the University of Pittsburgh, choosing the Applied Developmental Psychology program due to its long history in the mission of establishing a sustainable, competency-driven profession of child and youth care (CYC) workers. While in the program, she received mentorship from CYC founders—such as Karen Van der Ven, Martha Mattingly, and Andrew Schneider-Muñoz—who inspired her to continue pushing for best practices in child and youth work and for CYC workers. In 2011, she was awarded the School of Education’s Student Leadership Award for her innovative application of best practices and dedication to improving relational dynamics between professionals and the children with whom they work.
Christina’s experience and education contribute to her belief that three things are critical to engaging in high-quality, effective youth work: (a) a supportive, trusting relationship with the child, (b) a strong understanding of cognitive, behavioral, emotional, and social development across the lifespan, and (c) a commitment to equity and understanding youth within their sociocultural context, including macrosystem influences such as marginalization, minoritization, and disenfranchisement. As such, she uses an ecological systems approach to study relational dynamics and proximal processes that impact youth development, especially among adolescents coping with emotional and behavioral disorders, social impairments, or trauma.
Christina’s past research has identified how social support operates as an adaptive coping mechanism for adolescents. She continues to investigate school-based relational dynamics that impact youth’s cognitive, emotional, and social development. During COVID-19, she has been engaging in nationwide longitudinal research to examine parents’ and adolescents’ stress, coping, support, and adjustment, highlighting the importance of supporting adolescents’ developmental needs in non-traditional ecological contexts during extraordinary circumstances. This work has also focused on how ethnic and racial disparities have affected marginalized and minoritized groups during the pandemic and how these pandemic-related disparities may differentially impact post-pandemic recovery. As this research continues, she hopes to advance the understanding of how pandemic-induced trauma in conjunction with disrupted social environments impact youth and families adaptive functioning longitudinally.
Because of her relational approach, Christina’s work does not solely focus on youth. Not long after starting in the field, she became an advocate for supporting the health and well-being of CYC workers, especially those working with youth who have experienced trauma. Since 2010, she has been speaking at local, regional, and national conferences, sharing information about the nefarious correlates of compassion fatigue as they apply to youth workers and making recommendations to better support the development of a healthy, sustainable CYC workforce. Central to this work is her use of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods designs to examine emotional acting strategies and organizational expectations for emotional practice that mitigate secondary traumatic stress and burnout and bolster compassion satisfaction among CYC workers. Her aim is to gain a better understanding of the emotional practices that contribute to a positive professional quality of life, thereby contributing to the efficacy, strength, and valence of therapeutic alliances between CYC workers and youth in a wide variety of settings.
Christina enjoys being active in her community and engaging with students at the University of Pittsburgh, where she has established a reputation as a dedicated educator, mentor, and interdisciplinary collaborator. As a leader in the CYC profession, she has worked with organizations such as Cornell University’s Residential Child Care Project, the Association for Children’s Residential Centers, and the National Park Service. She also holds positions as adjunct faculty at Chatham University and Bowling Green State University. Christina is in the final stages of finishing her dissertation, “Social Support in Unprecedented Times: An Examination of Racial Differences in Low-Income Adolescents’ Stress, Social Support, and Affect before and during the Coronavirus Pandemic.” She is expected to receive her PhD in Applied Developmental Psychology as well as a minor in Quantitative Research Methodology in summer 2021.
Christina has held an elected delegate position on the ACYCP Board of Directors since 2015. As co-chair of the Professional Development Committee, she has provided guidance for ACYCP’s research endeavors, assisted in setting the groundwork for ACYCP’s successful webinar series, and was part of establishing ACYCP’s involvement with the Council of Accreditation. In 2020, Christina spearheaded a participatory action research project to determine the status of the CYC profession in the United States and Canada. This project will allow ACYCP to participate in data-driven advocacy while simultaneously providing services more responsive to the needs of our membership base, all in the best interest of helping youth and youth workers thrive.