At the UNC School of Social Work, Paul Lanier develops and evaluates evidence-based programs that create a positive impact on parenting.

He strives to ensure parents — especially new fathers — have access to tools, skills, and services they need to be successful.

“I got to know hundreds of these youth from across our state,” Lanier said, “and many of them shared stories with me about their experiences with their parents or with the foster care system and most of the services that we provided focused on the kids’ behaviors and not as much about the adults responsible for them.”

According to Lanier, his research focuses mainly on promoting child well-being and children’s mental health.

“I’m really interested in child maltreatment prevention, child abuse prevention. So we work with programs across the state that helped parents to properly care for, discipline, and raise their children using practices to best promote child development.”

Dr. Lanier is also focused on emerging programs that are more inclusive and available for fathers.

“Fathers have unfortunately been neglected in a lot of this research,” Lanier said. “The role of fathers in caregiving, especially in early childhood is changing. We’re seeing large increases in the number of fathers who are taking care of kids, even especially young kids in the home, so we need to think about what it would mean to support male caregivers and father figures trying to care for young kids.”

One of the things that Dr. Lanier and his team discovered was that fathers often asked for someone to come to their house — their home environment — to teach them how to be a more effective parent.

“That’s something we’re thinking about, to make sure that we’re developing programs, adapting programs with fathers in mind. There’s lots of really interesting innovative ideas about how to engage fathers. So some programs, uh, like to work on the fact that dads can be maybe a little more competitive and enjoy playing video games and things like that.”