Meet Our Researchers: Ja’Chelle Ball

BlogChild WelfareMar 27 2024

Ja'Chelle Ball morJa’Chelle Ball is a senior research assistant in Child Trends’ Child Welfare program area.

Ja’Chelle, can you briefly list your research activities and responsibilities at Child Trends?

In my short time here, I’ve grown many skills in my day-to-day research, including qualitative data collection and analysis, program evaluations, and report writing. Additionally, I support project management and serve as task lead on projects supporting practitioner and researcher collaboration efforts.

Can you tell us about your primary research interest(s)?

My primary research interests aim to understand the systemic and social-level factors that contribute to Black youth’s identity development, especially those who are involved with either/both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. It’s important to examine these factors and experiences, particularly as Black youth are disproportionately involved with these systems that impact their future life outcomes and development.

What sparked your interest in Black children and youth’s identity development and involvement in child welfare and juvenile justice systems?

As a Black woman and first-generation college student, my identity and social experiences have been key to my identity development, but I never truly understood how until college. Three courses—Introduction to African American studies, Cultural Psychology, and Urban Inequality—allowed me to reflect on both systemic and social-level factors that contribute to individuals’ development, as well as my own experiences and contributing factors to my own perspectives of my identity, upbringing, and youth-serving systems.

Although I am not directly involved with the child welfare or juvenile justice systems, my social circle includes Black youth who were involved with these systems—which influence their work, passions, and perspectives about themselves and the world. Given Black youth’s disproportionate exposure to these systems, I became interested in learning more about their experiences with these systems and the systems’ impact on their overall development. As such, my research portfolio and approach aim to center youth voice and experiences while emphasizing the need to understand the social contexts that contribute to one’s experiences.

What books or journal articles have most influenced you?

Two papers have been most influential to my research career: “Gender Matters: Using an Ecological Lens to Understand Female Crime and Disruptive Behavior” and “Developing a Conceptual Framework of Black Women’s Gendered Racial Identity Development.” These papers describe important aspects of systems reform efforts specific to young girls and women, including 1) social contexts and system responses to young girls and women; and 2) the intersectionality of race and gender among individual and system-level interactions. Given that Black youth—especially young Black girls and women—have a unique experience with systems, these papers were the first to shape my perspective on gender within systems change work and my understanding of the nuances of how race and gender impact youths’ experiences with systems.

What are your hobbies or interests outside of research?

When I am not working, I spend much of my time watching crime-related shows (especially Criminal Minds), trying new baking recipes, or trying new restaurants with my mom or friends. I consider myself a foodie, so I’m always trying to recreate recipes or learn more about different cuisines! I also love the arts, especially visual arts such as drawing, and fashion design: I’ve recently reignited my interest in sewing. I hope to master my skills on a sewing machine!

To wrap up, can you tell us a fun or interesting fact about yourself or your family?

I am a huge dog person, and it centers my family so much! I am from North Carolina but one of my older brothers lives in the Midwest now, so we have brother and sister Shih Tzus/Chihuahua mixes from the same litter to keep some familial ties between us in our homes away from each other. My brother has the girl, Willow, and I have the boy, Spade.

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