Throughout her career, Associate Professor Vikki Katz has shown a unique ability to gather data on immigrant families and present it in a way that puts a human face to all all those numbers and statistics. Her next project may be the greatest example yet.
On Sept. 1, 2016, Katz began a yearlong residency at the Russell Sage Foundation as a member of its 2016-17 class of Visiting Scholars. During the year, Katz will write a book — tentatively titled “Family Trials” — based on her extensive research into how immigrant parents who have been accused of child abuse or neglect navigate the family court system in the Bronx, New York.
“I’m really excited about this, not just because it will give me a chance to write a book about a topic I really care about, but also because it allows me to spend a year alongside some of the experts whose work I’ve been reading since I was an undergrad,” Katz said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity, and I’m really very grateful to the Foundation and to Rutgers for their support.”
Wanting to understand what parents’ and children’s everyday experience in the system looks like, Katz interviewed more than 50 families, and then tracked 10 of them through the Bronx Family Court system for 12 to 18 months, conducting nearly 100 formal interviews with parents, children, attorneys, judges, interpreters and social workers in total. She found that the system takes an additional toll on immigrant families.
“I think for a group of parents, i.e., new immigrants, who are already feeling shaky as they navigate a new environment, understanding what family court involves and does to their families is something we need to understand better,” Katz said. “It’s not the most uplifting project I’ve done; it is by far the saddest. But it feels very important.”
The Visiting Scholars program, now in its 30th year, furthers the 109-year-old Russell Sage Foundation’s mission toward “the improvement of social and living conditions in the United States.”