Kess L. Ballentine, PhD
PhD - Social Work
Assistant Professor of Social Work
Wayne State University School of Social Work

Kess Ballentine, MA, MSW, PhD serves as an Assistant Professor of Social Work. She is a research affiliate of the Detroit Partnership for Education Equity & Research and a co-investigator for the Pittsburgh Wage Study.

Ballentine’s research and practice are inspired by her former work in research and community. Prior to earning her doctorate, she worked as an elementary special educator, as well as on an NIMH-funded study of group home care for children with mental health and behavioral disorders. She has also worked as a domestic violence advocate and a community program developer. Through her practice, she has gained insight into the fields of education, mental health, and child welfare and is now applying this knowledge as an engaged researcher to help improve family and child well-being among lower-income families.

Ballentine researches how institutional policy and practice affects individual and family outcomes. Her overarching research goal is to develop a holistic framework of how working people navigate workplaces, child-serving institutions, home life, and social forces across the community. She uses a variety of research methods and a critical theoretical framework. Her research informs policy and practice to pursue social justice for people experiencing systemic oppression. Her current work examines mechanisms of institutional discrimination experienced by low-paid workers and understanding the effects of wage increases on low-paid workers. She is beginning a new line of research inquiry exploring how work- and school-based policies intersect to affect parental school engagement. She has presented her work at national and international conferences and published in leading journals, including Health Affairs and Families in Society.