Kelly Murphy

Research Scholar
Program Area Director, Youth Development

Kelly Murphy headshot

Research Focus

Education & certification

Ph.D., Applied Developmental Psychology, Claremont Graduate University

Kelly Murphy

Research Scholar
Program Area Director, Youth Development, Bethesda, MD

Kelly Murphy brings nearly a decade of experience in bridging research and practice in youth-serving systems to Child Trends. She is known for her policy- and practice-relevant research and evaluation focused on helping states and communities improve their juvenile justice and child welfare systems. Her research interests include positive youth development, the effects of trauma, the transition to adulthood, implementation science, and evidence-based practice and policy.

For the past several years, Kelly has conducted evaluations of interventions and system-wide reforms designed to improve the outcomes of youth and young adults exposed to multiple risk factors. For example, in 2017, Kelly collaborated with colleagues on one of the first evaluations of a system-wide reform effort to integrate trauma-informed care throughout a child welfare system. Currently, she is leading the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention-funded evaluations of two core components of the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice’s (DJJ) transformation efforts: 1) the creation of a statewide continuum of evidence-based programs and alternatives to incarceration, and 2) re-entry reform efforts supported by DJJ’s Second Chance Act Grant. In addition to her evaluation work, Kelly also conducts applied research. She recently completed a National Institute of Justice-funded study examining how juvenile justice judges and attorneys access, interpret, and use research in their decision making. She has also presented research on the life experiences that predict job quality in adulthood at the Brookings Institution.

Kelly is committed to conducting evaluations that can contribute to program and system-wide enhancement and, importantly, improve the outcomes of youth, young adults, and families. Across all of her projects from her, she works closely with stakeholders to collect, analyze, and use data and research evidence to guide their decision making. With the 2018 reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), Kelly is looking forward to establishing more evaluation partnerships with states interested in implementing research-based reforms and conducting more work on understanding how research is used in juvenile justice systems.