Sarah Elizabeth Neville

My name is Sarah Elizabeth Neville and I am a PhD candidate at Boston College School of Social Work working in global child welfare.

Current estimates suggest some 5 million children around the world live in residential care institutions, commonly known as orphanages.

When I was a teen my parents adopted two toddlers who had lived in orphanages and foster care, sparking a lifelong passion for finding ways to ensure children in institutions can thrive in loving families.

My research interests are transdisciplinary and focused on all aspects of this issue, such as:

  • What are the effects of institutions on children's well-being and development?

  • What about the effects of family reintegration - including reunification, local foster care, and international and domestic adoption?

  • How can interventions - e.g., family strengthening, parenting education, economic support - support successful reintegration in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC)? What does implementation science suggest are the barriers and facilitators of interventions' effectiveness?

  • How can family separation and the institutionalization of children be prevented in LMIC?

I have used quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods in my work, and am passionate about integrating participatory approaches into research.

I'd love to connect!


Alternative care in LMIC

  • Under review: Neville, S. E., Saran, I., Crea, T. M. Parental care status and sexual risk behavior in five nationally-representative surveys of Sub-Saharan African nations.

Intercountry adoption

Policy advocacy/public scholarship

U.S. child welfare

  • Serving as Court-Appointed Special Advocate for children involved in child protective services since 2016.

  • Hokanson, K., Neville, S. E., Teixeira, S., Singer, E., & Berzin, S. C. (2020). ‘There are a Lot of Good Things that Come Out of it at the End’: Voices of Resilience in Youth Formerly in Foster Care During Emerging Adulthood. In Child Welfare.


  • Independent instructor for Program Evaluation at Boston College School of Social Work.

Civic engagement & anti-racism

  • Co-organizer of the How White People Can Confront White Supremacism symposium for the Boston College School of Social Work community.

  • Political activism and engagement in my local community, Chelsea MA.