Skip to main content

Janette Herbers, PhD Receives Career Grant from National Science Foundation to Study Development of Infants Experiencing Poverty and Homelessness in Philadelphia

Janette Herbers Receives Career Grant from National Science Foundation to Study Development of Infants Experiencing Poverty and Homelessness in Philadelphia

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Janette Herbers, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology in Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has received a five-year, $500,000 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the risk and adaptation of infants who experience family homelessness and poverty in the City of Philadelphia. Research shows that while half of those children who experience family homelessness are under the age of six, little information is available about the impact of homelessness during infancy, one of the most important and vulnerable times of a child’s development. Herbers’ research will address whether homelessness threatens development beyond the risks of poverty.

“I’m extremely honored to receive this grant to further research the important issues facing infant development here in Philadelphia,” said Herbers. “Researching homelessness has been a passion of mine since graduate school. I hope our findings can be applied in other cities across the country to support families during this crucial time in a child’s life.”

Herbers will study the risk, protection and adaptation of infants who stay in family homeless shelters compared with a group of infants whose families are poor, but who have residences. Primary research will be conducted at a number of family homeless shelters throughout the City of Philadelphia. As the educational component of the NSF CAREER project, Villanova psychology graduate and undergraduate students will learn the theory and practice of translating developmental science and teach core concepts of child development to community providers who serve families that experience homelessness.

Incorporated into the study will be an evaluation of “My Baby’s First Teacher”, an intervention program designed by Ileen Henderson of the Bright Horizons Foundation to enhance parent-child relationships for infants living in contexts of risk. The group intervention helps parents see themselves as teachers, provides information related to infant development and teaches skills to enhance parent-infant bonding.

Herbers is the third Villanova faculty member to receive a CAREER award, the most prestigious award in support of career-development activities for teacher-scholars who most effectively integrate research and education within the context of the mission of their organization. Jacob Elmer, PhD, assistant professor of chemical engineering, was awarded a CAREER grant in 2016 to streamline the production of genetically engineered T cells to treat leukemia patients. Amanda Grannas, PhD, Associate Vice Provost for Research and professor of chemistry, received the award in 2006 to study the photochemistry of organic pollutants in Arctic snow and ice.