Joshua Mersky, PhD

Social Work

Dr. Joshua Mersky is a professor of social work in the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare and founding co-director of the Institute for Child and Family Well-Being (ICFW). Dr. Mersky’s research interests include child maltreatment and other adverse experiences that undermine health and well-being over the life course. He applies his expertise to the design, application, evaluation, and dissemination of effective practices, programs, and policies.

Since 2011, Dr. Mersky has been the lead evaluator of the Family Foundations Home Visiting program, a partnership between the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families and Department of Health Services that supports evidence-based home visiting programs statewide. He also heads the Healthy Families Study, a randomized trial of multiple home visiting programs at the Milwaukee Health Department. In addition, Dr. Mersky is principal investigator of the Families and Children Thriving (FACT) Study, a longitudinal investigation into the health and well-being of at-risk children and families across Wisconsin. Dr. Mersky also partners on several evaluation research projects with local community partners, including Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Sojourner Family Peace Center, Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division, Milwaukee County Children’s Court, Community Advocates, the Milwaukee Health Department and the Central Racine County Health Department.

Most recently, Dr. Mersky helped to launch the Trauma and Recovery Project, a five-year, $1.8 million project funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). This partnership between the Institute for Child and Family Well-Being, WI Department of Children and Families, WI Office of Children’s Mental Health, and Milwaukee Child Welfare Partnership will increase access to evidence-based mental health treatments for children and families that have been exposed to trauma.


  • Ph.D., Social Welfare, Minor and Certificate in Prevention Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2006
  • MSW, Social Work, Virginia Commonwealth University, 2001
  • B.A., History, University of Mary Washington, 1995

Professional Interests:

  • Adversity, trauma and resilience
  • Prevention and intervention
  • Program evaluation
  • Translational science

Current Funding:

  • 9/30/17-9/29/22: Principal Investigator (Lead Agency: Wisconsin Department of Children & Families), Trauma and Recovery Project. Funding Source: U.S. DHHS, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  • 9/30/17-9/29/22: Principal Investigator (Lead Agency: Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division), Grants to Expand Substance Abuse Treatment Capacity in Family Treatment Drug Courts. Funding Source: U.S. DHHS, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  • 4/3/17-4/2/20: Principal Investigator (Lead Agency: Sojourner Family Peace Center), Addressing Polyvictimization in a Family Justice Center Setting Demonstration Initiative. Funding Source: U.S. DOJ, Office for Victims of Crime.
  • 1/1/17-12/31/19: Principal Investigator (Lead Agency: Milwaukee County District Court), The Prevention and Family Recovery Initiative. Funding Source: Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
  • 1/1/17-12/31/21: Co-Investigator with James Topitzes (PI) and David Pate (Lead Agency: Community Advocates Public Policy Institute), Healthy Workers, Healthy Wisconsin. Funding Source: Wisconsin Partnership Program, UW School of Medicine and Public Health.
  • 10/1/16-9/30/18: Co-Investigator with Colleen Janczewski (PI), Mixed Method Evaluation of Wisconsin’s Alternative Response. Funding Source: Wisconsin Department of Children & Families.
  • 4/1/16-9/30/18: Principal Investigator (Lead Agency: Wisconsin Department of Children & Families), Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Grant Program. Funding Source: U.S. DHHS, Health Resources and Services Administration.
  • 1/1/16-12/31/17: Co-Investigator (with John Meurer, PI), Parent Education and Support Network. Funding Source: Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program, Advancing Healthier Wisconsin, Medical College of Wisconsin.

Recent Publications:

  • Mersky, J. P., Topitzes, J., & Britz, L. (accepted). Promoting evidence-based, trauma-informed social work practice. Journal of Social Work Education.
  • Blair, K., Topitzes, J., & Mersky, J. P. (accepted). Do parents’ adverse childhood experiences influence treatment responses to Parent-Child Interaction Therapy? An exploratory study with a child welfare sample. Child & Family Behavior Therapy.
  • Mersky, J. P., & Janczewski, C. E. (in press). Adverse childhood experiences and postpartum depression in home visiting programs: Prevalence, association, and mediating mechanisms. Maternal and Child Health Journal.
  • Mersky, J. P., Janczewski, C. E., & Nitkowski, J. C. (2018). Pathways to poor mental health among low-income women in the U.S.: Exploring the role of adverse childhood and adult experiences. Social Science and Medicine, 206, 14-21.
  • Mersky, J. P., & Janczewski, C. E. (2018). Racial and ethnic differences in the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences: Findings from a low-income sample of US women. Child Abuse & Neglect, 76, 480-487.
  • Mersky, J. P., Topitzes, J., & Blair, K. (2017). Translating evidence-based treatments into child welfare services through community-university partnerships: A case example of parent-child interaction therapy. Children and Youth Services Review, 82, 427-433.
  • Topitzes, J., Berger, L., Otto-Salaj, L., Mersky, J. P., Weeks, F., & Ford, J. D. (2017). Complementing SBIRT for alcohol misuse with SBIRT for trauma: A feasibility study. Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions, 17(1-2), 188-215.
  • Mersky, J. P., Janczewski, C. E., & Topitzes, J. (2017). Rethinking the measurement of adversity: Moving toward second-generation research on adverse childhood experiences. Child Maltreatment, 22(1), 58-68.
  • Topitzes, J., Mersky, J. P., & Reynolds, A. J. (2017). Maltreatment prevention programming in early childhood: A review of models delivered in center-based settings: In R. Alexander (Ed.), Research and practices in child maltreatment prevention: Societal, organizational, and international approaches: Volume 2 (pp. 185-202). St. Louis, MO: STM Learning, Inc. (Peer Reviewed).
  • Janczewski, C. E., & Mersky, J. P. (2016). What’s so different about differential response systems?: Multilevel and longitudinal analyses of child neglect investigations. Children and Youth Services Review, 67, 123-132.
  • Mersky, J. P., Topitzes, J., Grant-Savela, S. D., Brondino, M. J., & McNeil, C. B. (2016). Adapting Parent-Child Interaction Therapy to foster care: Outcomes from a randomized trial. Research on Social Work Practice, 26(2), 157-167.
  • Mersky, J. P., Topitzes, J., Janczewski, C. E., & McNeil, C. B. (2015). Enhancing foster parent training with Parent-Child Interaction Therapy: Evidence from a randomized field experiment. Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research, 6(4), 591-616.
  • Topitzes, J., Mersky, J. P., & McNeil, C. B. (2015). Integrating Parent Child Interaction Therapy into foster care. Journal of Public Child Welfare, 9(1), 22-41.
  • McCoy, H., Mersky, J. P., Leverso, J., & Bowen, E. A. (2014). Risk assessment with juvenile offenders. In D. Springer & W. T. Church (Eds.), Juvenile Justice Sourcebook: Past, Present, and Future. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Mersky, J. P., Topitzes, J., & Reynolds, A. J. (2013). Impacts of adverse childhood experiences on health and mental health in early adulthood: A cohort study of an urban, minority sample in the U.S. Child Abuse & Neglect, 37(11), 917-925.
  • Topitzes, J., Mersky, J. P., Dezen, K. A., & Reynolds, A. J. (2013). Adult resilience among maltreated children: A prospective investigation of main effect and mediating models. Children and Youth Services Review, 35, 937-949.
  • Mersky, J. P., & Janczewski, C. E. (2013). Adult well-being of foster care alumni: Comparisons to other child welfare recipients and a non-child welfare sample in a high-risk, urban setting. Children and Youth Services Review, 35(3), 367-376.

Curriculum Vitae