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Robert M. Ortega

Associate Professor in the School of Social Work


Robert M. Ortega is an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan. He was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His parents grew up in the southwest US, primarily Pueblo, Colorado. His father was born in Irapuato, Guanajuato, Mexico, and his mother’s family immigrated from Seville, Spain although his mother was born in Des Moines, New Mexico. Dr. Ortega is the fifth oldest of 19 children, 12 are biological and his parents adopted 7 children including one nephew and six foster children. Dr. Ortega received all his degrees from the University of Michigan (BA ’77, MSW ’83, MA (Psychology) ’87 and Joint PhD (SW & Psychology) ’91. His dissertation entitled, Commitment in Marriage: For Better and For Worse, focused on long-term relationships and commitment, utilizing the Early Years of Marriage study through the Institute for Social Research. Dr. Ortega’s research interests are in the areas of relationship development, group work practice, treatment interventions and service utilization particularly in the areas of mental health and child welfare. He has presented and written on these topics with a special focus on diversity and social justice in research and practice. He is the principal investigator of the first national study of Latinos and child welfare. He has published in the areas of mutual aid, multicultural issues in social work research and practice, child welfare and Latinos, adoption and Latinos and culturally responsive child welfare practice focusing primarily on the concept of cultural humility. He recently co-authored the book, Socially Just Practice in Groups, with Professor Emeritus Charles Garvin. He is currently working with the Child Welfare League of America on a special issue focused on the national status of Latinx in child welfare. Dr. Ortega is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2017 UM SSW Distinguished Faculty Award, the 2015 Outstanding Service and Advancement of Cultural Competency in Child Maltreatment Prevention and Intervention Award by the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, 2015 Blue Flame Lifetime Achievement Award, Organization of Latino Social Workers, MI Chapter, the 2013 National Council on Social Work Education Recent Distinguished Contributions to Social Work Education Award, and the 2011 State-wide NASW Lisa Putnam Award for Excellence in Child Welfare. Dr. Ortega serves as consultant on several national research projects and organizations focusing on social work, child welfare and social justice issues.

Research Interests:

Child Welfare, Juvenile Justice, Serious Mental Illness