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Joy Swanson Ernst

Joy Swanson Ernst

Professor of Social Work


  • Ph.D., University of Maryland, Baltimore
  • M.S.W., Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
  • B.A., The University of Chicago

Courses taught

  • SOWK 201: Introduction to Social Work and Human Services Programs
  • SOWK 301: Social Policy and Human Services Programs
  • SOWK 327: Gerontological Social Work: Practice and Policy
  • SOWK 330: Social Work with Families
  • SOWK 343: Human Behavior and the Social Environment I
  • SOWK 344: Human Behavior and the Social Environment II
  • SOWK 452: Senior Seminar in Social Work


Professor Ernst is a professor and the director of Hood College's undergraduate social work program. Prior to joining Hood College in 2000, she was the research director for the Family Connections program at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, and she has had social work positions in agencies that serve families and children. Her scholarly work reflects her interest in elder justice and the well-being of vulnerable, community-dwelling older adults and children who are at risk for inadequate care or neglect. She has published articles on the relationship between neighborhood factors and child maltreatment, child welfare practice in New Zealand, housing and child care adequacy, geriatric enrichment in social work education, characteristics of self-neglect in older adults, and the use of multidisciplinary teams in Adult Protective Services. In 2006, she received a John A. Hartford Geriatric Social Work Faculty Scholars award, and in 2009, she received the Mit Joyner Gerontological Leadership Award from the Association of Baccalaureate Program Directors. Currently, she is conducting research on risk and protective factors for caregiver neglect of older adults and on outcomes in Adult Protective Services programs.

Research and teaching interests

I am interested in the factors in the enviroment that can improve the well-being of children and vulnerable, community-dwelling older adults who are at risk for inadequate care or neglect. Thanks to a grant from the John A. Hartford foundation, for the past few years I have been able to explore my interest in the risk factors for caregiver neglect of older adults. Because of demographic changes, under my direction the social work program has expanded its emphasis on preparing all students to work with older adults in all social work settings.

Recent publications

  • Ernst, J.S. (2014).  Physical and sexual abuse during older adulthood.  In Gullotta, T.P. & Bloom, M. (eds.).  Encyclopedia of primary prevention and health promotion (2nd ed.), pp. 2063-2073.  New York: Springer.
  • Ernst, J.S., Ramsey-Klawsnik, H., Schillerstrom, J., Dayton, C., Mixson, P., and Counihan, M. (2014). Informing evidence-based practice: A review analyzing adult protective services (APS) data.  Journal of Elder Abuse and Neglect, 26, 5, 458-494.
  • Ernst, J.S. & Brownell, P. (2013). Elder abuse in the United States. In Phelan, A. (ed.). International Perspectives on Elder Abuse, pp. 206-221. Oxford, UK: Routledge.
  • Ernst, J.S. & Smith, C.A. (2012). Assessment in adult protective services: Do multidisciplinary teams make a difference? Journal of Gerontological Social Work 55, 1, 21-38.
  • Ernst, J.S. & Smith, C.A. (2011). Adult protective services clients confirmed for self-neglect: Characteristics and service use.Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect 23, 4, 289-303.
  • Tompkins, C., Ernst, J.S., Ihara, E., & Clark, P. (2011). Two birds with one stone: Using gerontology experiences to meet CSWE competencies. Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work 16, 1, 63-83.

Recent presentations

  • Ernst, J.S., Ramsey-Klawsnik, H. & Dayton, C. (2013). Research analyzing Adult Protective Services data: What does it tell us? Presentation at 24th Annual National Adult Protective Services Association Conference, St. Paul, MN, October 2, 2013. 
  • Ernst, J.S. (2013). Protecting vulnerable older adults: Application of human rights to public guardianship.  Paper presentation at 29th Annual Baccalaureate Social Work Education Conference, Myrtle Beach, SC, March 7, 2013. 
  • Ernst, J.S. & Hegg, K. (2012). The cycle of deployment: Stress, challenges, and resource use by military spouses. Paper presentation at 28th Annual Baccalaureate Social Work Education Conference, March 16, 2012.
  • Sowbel, L. & Ernst, J.S. (2012). What do older adults really want? An exploratory senior qualitative research project. Paper presentation at 28th Annual Baccalaureate Social Work Education Conference, March 16, 2012.