Mary Rauktis

  • Research Associate Professor

Mary Elizabeth Rauktis earned a PhD in social work from the University of Pittsburgh in 1993. Prior to joining the Pitt faculty in 2007, Dr. Rauktis was Director of Research and Evaluation at Pressley Ridge, an international nonprofit provider of services to children and families. She was an adjunct at the school from 1993 to 2000, and has held adjunct teaching positions at Robert Morris University’s Bayer School for Nonprofit Management and at the University of Minho Institute of Child and Family Studies in Portugal.

In 2017 she was awarded a Fulbright Core Award to do research and teach at the University of Porto, School of Psychological Sciences. In 2022 she was selected for a Fulbright award to India, Assam Don Bosco University.  She is the President of the Greater Pittsburgh Chapter of the Fulbright Association.

Dr. Rauktis is currently on the editorial boards for the  Journal of Intergenerational Relationships, the Journal of Child and Adolescent Social Work and Residential Treatment for Children and Youth, Residential Treatment for Children and Youth and she is a Co-editor for Social work in Mental Health. She has also co-edited four special journal issues –one on interventions in Portugal for children and two focused on residential care and child safety in out-of-home care and one on Human-Animal Interactions and Social Work Practice for children and youth.

Recent Research Projects

  • COVID-19 and foster youth educational trajectories
  • Adoption of dogs during COVID-19
  • Kinship grandparenting
  • Evaluation of the Pennsylvania IV-E waiver 2013-2018 for children and families involved in child welfare
  • Exploring food insecurity for low-income adults and their companion animals.

Research Interests and Topical Areas

  • Research on out-of-home care for children with a focus on social learning practices and climate
  • Human-animal interaction research
  • Interventions with vulnerable populations

I would be interested in a doctoral student who would like to focus on child welfare, specifically residential or foster care, but also evaluating or developing in-home preventative interventions.  Although this is an emerging area for me, I have been working within the animal-human intersection, exploring how pets can be utilized to improve mental and physical health.

Social Media

Twitter handle: @DrRauk

Funded projects

2016-2018: Florence Stier Endowed Fund School of Social Work. Study: Animal ownership in low-income households:  Is there a relationship between human and animal food insecurity?

2012: Understanding the experiences of White Mothers of Black/White Children. Funder: Center on Race and Social Problems

2007-2011:  Co-PI Fidelity to family group principles.  Goals were to assess and report on fidelity to 60+ counties in Pennsylvania regarding their practice of family group decision making.  Funder:  Pennsylvania Office of Children Youth and Families.

2008-2011:   Consultant, Venango Department of Human Services.  Goals were to evaluate intensive community support program for young adults.  Funder:  Venango county.

2009-2011:  PI. Youth perception of living environments.  The goal was to revise the measurement of restrictiveness of living   environment for children and youth in out of home care.  Funder:  Casey Family Services and Pressley Ridge.

2007-2009:  Co-PI Racial Disparity and Service Pathways for Youth in Allegheny County.  Funder:  Center on Race and Social Problems, University of Pittsburgh

Representative Publications

Animal Work:

Rauktis, M. E., Hoy-Gerlach, J., Sewall, C.J., Lee, H., & Bickel, L. Preliminary Findings of a Ten-Item Scale to Assess the Commitment of Low-Income Owners to Their Companion Animals  Anthrozoos.34, 109-126. 

Rauktis, M.E., Lee, H et al.  Food Security Challenges and Health Opportunities of Companion Animal Ownership for Low-Income Adults. (2020).  Journal of Evidence-Informed Social Work. 17, 6., 662-676.  

Rauktis, M.E., Hoy-Gerlach, J (2020).  Animal (Non-human) companionship for adults aging in place during COVID-19:  A critical support, a source of concern and potential for social work.  Journal of Gerontological Social Work. 

Hoy-Gerlach, Rauktis, M. E., & Newhill, C. (2020).  ((Non-human) Animal companionship:  A crucial support for people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Society Register, 4, 

Mary Elizabeth Rauktis, Ph.D., Hyunji Lee MSW. "Animal ownership in low-income households: Is there a relationship between human and animal food insecurity?"

Child Welfare:

Perry, M.A., Rauktis, M. E., & Cahalane, H.G. (2021). A principles-based approach to evaluating family engagement group strategies: Lessons from a IV-E Waiver demonstration project. Journal of Public Child Welfare

Rauktis, M. E. (2022) PublicSource: ‘Not their first worry’: How pandemic learning loss impacts foster youth already facing challenges


H Jang, ME Rauktis, F Tang - Aging & Mental Health, 2021  The quality of relationships with adult children and depressive symptoms among grandparents

Older publications

Rauktis, M. E. (2015).  “When you first get there, you wear red”:  Youth perceptions of point and level systems in group home care. Published online before print, June 27, 2015. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal 

Fusco, R. A., & Rauktis, M. E. (2012) Transracial mothering and maternal risk: Are mothers of biracial children different? Child Welfare , 9, 55-77.

Rauktis, M. E., Bishop-Fitzpatrick, L, Jung, N & Pennel, J. Family group decision making: measuring fidelity to practice principles in public child welfare. Children and Youth Services Review 

Rauktis, M. E., Huefner, J., & Cahalane, H.  Perceptions of fidelity to family group decision making principles:  examining the impact of race, gender and relationship.  Child Welfare.  Vol. 90, No. 4, 41-59.

Rauktis, M. E., Fusco, R. A., Cahalane, H., Bennett, I., & Reinhart, S. M. (2011) . “Try to make it seem like we’re regular kids” Children and Youth Services Review 33, 1224–1233.

Manso, A & Rauktis, M. E. (2011) What is Therapeutic Alliance and Why Does it Matter? Reclaiming Children and Youth, 19, 4 45-50.

Fusco, R.A., Rauktis, M.E., McCrae, J.S., Cunningham, M.A, & Bradley-King, C.R.(2010).  Aren’t they just Black kids? Biracial children in the child welfare system. Child & Family Social Work 15, 441-451.

McCrae, J., Barth, R., Lee, B., & Rauktis, M. E.(2010) Comparing Three Years of Well-Being Outcomes for Youth in Group Care and Non-Kinship Foster Care. Child Welfare.89(2):229-49

Rauktis, M. E., McCarthy, S., Krackhardt, D., & Cahalane, H. G. (2010).

Innovation in child welfare: The adoption and implementation of Family Group Decision Making in Pennsylvania. Children and Youth Services Review
32, 5, 732-739.

Rauktis, M. E., Huefner, J., O’Brien, K., Pecora, P., Doucette, A. & Thompson, R.  (2009).Measuring Restrictiveness of Living Environments for Children and Youth:  Re-conceptualizing Restriction.  Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 17, 3, 147-163.

Manso, A., Rauktis, M. E., & Boyd, A. S. (2008).  Youth expectations about therapeutic alliance in a residential setting.  Residential Treatment for Children and Youth. 25, 1, 55-72.

Boyd, A. S., Einbinder, S. D., Rauktis, M. E. Portwood, S. G. (2007).  Building Research Capacity in Residential Treatment Centers:  An Approach for Empirical Studies.  Child and Youth Care Forum 36, 143-58.

Rauktis, M. E., Andrade, A. R., Doucette, A., McDonough, L., & Reinhart, S.(2005)  Treatment Foster Care and Relationships:  Understanding the role of therapeutic alliance between youth and treatment parent. 


Areas of Expertise