Nathanael Okpych, PhD

Assistant Professor

School of Social Work

Research Interests

My research focuses on investigating factors that influence the transition to adulthood for young people with foster care histories. I am especially interested in improving secondary and postsecondary education outcomes for foster youth, in terms of increasing rates of college entry and completion. I also study behavioral health and social support among foster youth. I currently serve as the Project Director for the CalYOUTH Study (PI: Mark Courtney), an 8-year evaluation of impact of California’s AB-12 policy. This study draws on state administrative data and a longitudinal study to assess the impact that extending the foster care age limit has on a variety of youth outcomes. Second, I serve as an evaluator to UConn’s First Star program, a partnership with DCF that provides academic and college preparation to high school students in foster care. Along with the program staff and other UConn faculty, we have revamped the measures used to evaluate First Star, administered the new measures this past summer, and are currently analyzing the data. Finally, I am will be applying for funding to launch a new study that investigates the link between avoidant attachment (emotional guardedness, reluctance to utilize support from others) and social network formation for foster youth in college. Currently, I am partnering with a college program in Michigan that serves foster youth (the Seita Scholars program at Western Michigan University) to pilot the survey instrument.

My past research has involved analyzing policies, identifying risk and protective factors, and taking stock of services for youth in foster care. Please see my CV for more details.

A goal of my research is to identify actionable policy and practice levers that will improve health and education outcomes for young people with foster care histories. In keeping with inCHIP’s mission, this program of research is interdisciplinary in nature, straddling the fields of social work, education, psychology, and public policy. It also reflects the diversity in my education (clinical psychology, social work, biostatisics) and professional experience in the areas of social work/psychology (e.g., care coordinator, therapist) and education (e.g., middle school teacher, Upward Bound instructor, college residence hall building director). My research has involved and will continue to involve working collaboratively with scholars from other fields, policy makers, service providers, and other key stakeholders. As a faculty member who is early in his career and new to Connecticut, I look forward to opportunities through inCHIP to connect with other scholars, learn about the local CT contexts, and form research alliances that will move the needle on outcomes for children.


PhD, University of Chicago 2017


Okpych, Nathanael J. and Mark E. Courtney. In press. “Barriers to Degree Completion for College Students with Foster Care Histories: Results from a 10-year Longitudinal Study.” Journal of College Student Retention.

Okpych, Nathanael J. and Mark E. Courtney. 2018. “The Role of Avoidant Attachment on College Persistence and College Completion for Older Youth in Foster Care.” Children and Youth Services Review, 90, 106-117.

Okpych, Nathanael J., Huiling Feng, Keyune Park, Mark E. Courtney, and Adrianna Torres-García. 2018. “Living situations and social support in the era of extended foster care: A view from the U.S.” Longitudinal and Life Course Studies 9(1), 6-29.

Okpych, Nathanael J. and Mark E. Courtney. 2017. “Who Goes to College? Social Capital and Other Predictors of College Entry for Foster Care Youth.” Journal of the Society for Social Work Research 8(4), 563-593.

Okpych, Nathanael J. and Mark E. Courtney. 2017. “Characteristics of Foster Care History as Risk Factors for Psychiatric Disorders among Youth in Care.” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. Advanced online publication:

Okpych, Nathanael J. 2015. “Receipt of Independent Living Services among Older Youth in Foster Care: An Analysis of National Data from the U.S.” Children and Youth Services Review 51: 74-86.

Okpych, Nathanael J. and Mark E. Courtney. 2014. “Does Education Pay for Youth Formerly in Foster Care? Comparison of Employment Outcomes with a National Sample.” Children and Youth Services Review 43: 18-28.

Okpych, Nathanael J. 2012. “Policy Framework Supporting Youth Aging-Out of Foster Care Through College: Review and Recommendations.” Children and Youth Services Review, 34 (7): 1390-1396.

Longhofer, Jeffrey, Jerry Floersch, and Nathanael J. Okpych. 2011. “Foster Youth and Psychotropic Treatment: Where Next?” Children and Youth Services Review 33 (2): 395-404.

Natheanal Okpych
Contact Information
Phone(959) 200-3622
Mailing Address38 Prospect St.
Hartford, Connecticut 06103
United States
CampusDowntown Hartford