A Tribute to Dr. Mark Chaffin

A Tribute to Dr. Mark Chaffin

September 1, 2015 | Dr. Raelene Freitag, Director of Social Service Practice

chaffin

Dr. Mark Chaffin passed away recently. I didn’t know Mark well, but I knew and respected his work. Most of my connection with Mark was through the Child Maltreatment Researchers listserv, which has been maintained through Cornell University since the days that listservs were cutting-edge technology. As recently as July 13 of this year, Mark posted one of his classic comments.

Dr. Mark Chaffin passed away recently. I didn’t know Mark well, but I knew and respected his work. Most of my connection with Mark was through the Child Maltreatment Researchers listserv, which has been maintained through Cornell University since the days that listservs were cutting-edge technology. As recently as July 13 of this year, Mark posted one of his classic comments. I forwarded it to several of my colleagues who I knew were interested in the topic (stability in foster care placements) with the note, “I’ve always respected Mark Chaffin for his balanced, reasoned insertions into highly charged conversations. Here’s another good example.”

Mark contributed immensely to our field through his extensive publications and research. He was the founding editor of Child Maltreatment, the journal of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC). As a professor at the University of Oklahoma most of his career, and most recently at Georgia State University, Mark influenced thousands of students over the years. He recently participated in producing an APSAC guideline on evidence-based service planning that contributes to an important dialogue about what child protective services can do to help families become safer.

Among his many achievements, his character really showed when he replied to something on that listserv. It was often when online “debates” got a bit heated that Mark would post a lengthy argument that called us all back to reason. He gently, never with anger or judgment, assembled a carefully thought-out and balanced review of what we really know. Slicing through rhetoric, Mark could bring us all to the place we need to be: a humble awareness of how much we don’t know, and a firm stance on the ground of what we do know.

As it happened, at last month’s APSAC conference in Boston, the first person I ran into as I arrived was Mark. While we both waited for the elevator I took a moment to tell him (as I have in the past) how much I appreciated him for his contributions to conversations on the listserv. I’m grateful for that moment. Mark has been my “E.F. Hutton” of child welfare—when he talked, we all did well to listen. He will be missed.

Dr. Raelene Freitag is director of social service practice at the NCCD Children’s Research Center.