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Anna Abella, PhD

Anna Abella, PhD




MHC 2413


Anna Davidson Abella, PhD, is an applied anthropologist and a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Child & Family Studies in the College of Behavioral Community Sciences at USF. Dr. Abella has been involved in child and family services for over 10 years, both as a practitioner and researcher. Dr. Abella's research experience includes serving as Principal Investigator of the Pinellas Integrated Care Alliance, an initiative to improve access to mental health care through intensive care coordination using a police mental health collaborative model. Dr. Abella also served as Principal Investigator of the Sarasota County Youth Mental Health Environmental Scan, which was an assessment of the status of mental health services for children, youth, and young adults ages 0-24 in Sarasota County. She currently serves as Project Director of an evaluation of the Florida child welfare pre-service training for child protective investigators and case managers. Dr. Abella has conducted qualitative research on a number of other projects, including evaluations of federal and regional efforts to improve child welfare services.

Dr. Abella completed her dissertation research through the Department of Anthropology at USF, focusing on perceptions of “good” parenting among child development specialists and parents at a family service organization. Dr. Abella’s academic training in Applied Cultural Anthropology (PhD) and in Women’s and Gender Studies (MA) has informed her research methodologies to include engaged, critical, and participatory approaches. Dr. Abella teaches and provides advising for the Master of Science in Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health program at USF, an online program that prepares graduates for careers in community, youth, and family agencies and organizations that work to promote the well-being of children, adolescents, and emerging adults.

Dr. Abella has practical experience working with youth and adults in schools, community centers, and group homes to address youth risk behaviors through.  She previously worked as a program director at a local non-profit organization that provides social and emotional development skills to youth in various settings throughout Hillsborough County. This experience helped her to understand the needs of children and families as well as the challenges and opportunities associated with providing services across diverse constituents.

Dr. Abella’s current research interests are in identifying factors that support or interfere with family wellbeing within three domains: 1) understanding the diverse ways parenting knowledge and practices that influence family wellbeing, 2) examining structural and environmental factors, such as workplace policies that affect families and the organizational capacity of non-profit and governmental agencies to appropriately serve families, and 3) assessing the impact of mental illness on individuals and families.