MEET THE TEAM
Shamra Boel-Studt, PhD, MSW
Director, Institute for Quality Children’s Services | Associate Professor, College of Social Work
Dr. Boel-Studt has 20 years of combined experience in practice, training and technical assistance, research, and evaluation spanning the child welfare, children’s mental health, and juvenile justice systems. Boel-Studt holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Coe College and both a MSW and PhD in Social Work from the University of Iowa. Her research focuses on the quality and effectiveness of services for children and youth served in out-of-home care settings. Dr. Boel-Studt has extensive experience collaborating with public and private agencies to promote quality services across child service systems. Her major contributions include developing and validating the Quality Standards Assessment for children’s out-of-home care. She serves as Principal Investigator, leading the development of Florida’s legislatively mandated statewide accountability system for residential care. She is also collaborating with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the University of Texas Health at San Antonio to lead the development of a comprehensive quality improvement and training platform as part of the Residential Treatment Center Project that aims to treat children with acute behavioral health needs while supporting family preservation.
Jonathan Huefner, PhD
Co-Director, Institute for Quality Children’s Services
Jon has a Ph.D. in Organizational Social Psychology and more than 39 years of experience conducting research in a wide range of contexts. Strengths include psychometrics, research methodology, statistical analysis, and reporting and presentations. He has spent the last 21 years conducting research at Boys Town. His current research focuses on quality standards for children and adolescent residential care, negative peer contagion in residential care settings, residential care advocacy, psychotropic medication use with at-risk children, family involvement and youth outcomes, and return on investment related to residential outcomes.
Desmond Maxwell, BSW
Professional Research Assistant, Institute for Quality Children’s Services
Desmond Maxwell graduated from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University with his bachelors in social work and is currently enrolled in the Florida State University’s Advanced Standing Clinical Social Work Program, seeking a masters and eventual license. Desmond also works as a professional research assistant for the Institute of Quality Children Services.
In addition to her role as a research assistant for the IQCS, Savarra Howry is a doctoral student and lecturer in the College of Social Work at Florida State University. Savarra has social work practice experience in psychiatric hospital settings providing group and individual therapy to youth and their families. Her professional interests include improving the quality of care that youth receive while residing in out-of-home care settings with a special interest in foster youth aging out of the foster care system. Her research has focused on resiliency and quality of life among youth in residential care settings. Savarra has worked extensively on projects involving the Quality Standards Assessment for children’s out of home care with Drs. Boel-Studt and Huefner. She is dedicated to improving the outcomes of youth and their families while youth are in care and throughout the transitioning out of care process. Savarra loves to travel and include her dog, Lazarus, in her exploratory journeys.
Esaa Mohammad Sabti Samarah, MSW
Esaa Mohammad Sabti Samarah is a doctoral student in the FSU College of Social Work. Esaa earned his MSW from FSU in 2019 and practiced as a Child Protective Investigator in the state of Florida for just under two years. Esaa also has practice experience in middle school settings where he served as a Personal Care Assistant for adolescents with special healthcare needs. His research interests are strongly informed by practice experience and focus on examining decision making among child welfare professionals. Esaa joined the Institute in 2022 to collaborate on enhancing quality in residential care for children and their families.
Robynn Johnson, ADN
Robynn Johnson, ADN is a former nurse who started out in the medical surgical field but found her passion working in the correctional system. While employed at the local county jail, Robynn enjoyed working with a special needs intra-disciplinary team. The team consisted of security staff, medical staff and mental health staff. The goal of the team was to ensure that our clients with special needs were identified and provided adequate resources both in jail and upon release or transferred to another correctional facility. It was during this time that Robynn became aware of the lack of resources needed for our most vulnerable populations and the difficulty in navigating the system in order to acquire the resources for those in need.
Not only did Robynn deal with the frustration of securing resources in her professional life; she also has a more personal understanding of the need for early intervention. Her son Dylan, who is now 17, suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was just 3 years old. He was left with a large cognitive deficit, physical impairments, is medically fragile and has very aggressive behaviors. Four years ago, Robynn made the agonizing decision to commit her son for emergency in-patient services which became the beginning of a long and frustrating journey. Robynn has seen firsthand the positive aspects of pediatric residential care. Dylan is now thriving in a group home with a more structured environment and has a professional team available 24-7 to meet his needs. In providing her personal knowledge and experience, Robynn is hoping to help de-stigmatize the need for and make it easier to obtain pediatric residential services for those who desperately need it. She is hoping her personal experiences can help show where the system is working and where it needs to be improved.