James K. Whittaker, Ph.D.

Charles O. Cressey Endowed Professor of Social Work Emeritus

The University of Washington


Dr. Whittaker received his A.B. from Boston College in 1964, his M.S.W. from the University of Michigan in 1966 and his Ph.D. in Social Work with a minor in Child Psychology from the University of Minnesota in 1970. Dr. Whittaker joined the UW senior faculty ranks in 1970 as Associate Professor and was promoted to Full Professor in 1976.  In 2005 he was honored by the award of the Charles O. Cressey Endowed Professorship at the University of Washington, School of Social Work for his many contributions to child, youth and family services research and scholarship. Dr. Whittaker is also the recipient of Lifetime Achievement Awards from both the Association of Children’s Residential and Community Services (ACRC) in 2011 and The European Scientific Association for Residential and Family Care (EUSARF) in 2018.

His research and teaching interests encompass the integration of evidence-based practices into contemporary child & family services including therapeutic residential care, therapeutic foster care and intensive community and family-centered treatment alternatives, child welfare history and comparative child, youth and family services. A frequent contributor to the professional literature, Dr. Whittaker is author/co-author/editor of 10 books and over 100 peer review papers and book chapters. In all, his works have been translated into Dutch, Danish, German, French, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

His latest book – Revitalizing Residential Care for Children and Youth: Cross-National Trends and Challenges (2023) in collaboration with Prof. Lisa Holmes (UK), Prof. Jorge F. del Valle (Spain) and Prof. Sigrid James (Germany) was published by Oxford University Press in its International Policy Exchange Series. This multi-year effort involved the work of 49 international scholars and provides a detailed and systematic review of how 16 countries with developed welfare and social service systems address the question of how differing societies assess current needs and future directions in their critical residential child and youth care sectors.

Dr. Whittaker has served on the editorial review boards of a number of U.S. and international social service journals including: Social Service Review: 1999-2017 (U.S.); Journal of Public Child Welfare: 2005–present (U.S.); The British Journal of Social Work: 2000-2019 (U.K.); Child & Family Social Work:1997-present (U.K.) ; International Journal of Child & Family Welfare:1995-present (Netherlands) ; Children & Youth  Services Review: 1979-1994 (U.S.) and Residential Treatment for Children and Youth: 2015-present(U.S.). He is a founding member of IAOBER, The International Association for Outcome-Based Evaluation and Research on Family & Children’s Services (Padova, Italy): 2001-2019 and served as an Associated Board member of EUSARF, the European Scientific Association for Residential & Family Care for Children and Adolescents (Groningen, The Netherlands) from 2003-2017.


Quote:  Technology now affords us the opportunity to carry on a sustained conversation between child & family researchers, practitioners and policy makers and conduct cross-national analyses of critical service issues. Of particular interest, are the subtle ways in which promising ‘model interventions’ are shaped and altered to fit differing political, socio-cultural and regional contexts. Despite our great size and wealth, U.S. child and family policy & practice remains insular in its thinking and is much in need of fresh perspectives on how differing societies deal with common service challenges.  –Dr. James Whittaker