Areas of Expertise & Civic Involvements
Edwards examines why efforts at social control and social welfare provision vary across places. His current research focuses on how and why foster care, child abuse and neglect reporting, and racial inequalities in child welfare interventions vary dramatically across U.S. states and counties.
Edwards came to this research agenda after working with children and youth in the foster care system. After working closely with older youth in state care, he saw how the day-to-day implementation of child protection depends intimately on the interaction between a broad range of state agencies and actors including law enforcement, public health, and child welfare agencies.
Shows that state efforts at child protection are structured by the policy regimes in which they are enmeshed. Uses administrative data on child protection, criminal justice, and social welfare interventions to demonstrate that children are separated from their families and placed into foster care far more frequently in states with extensive and punitive criminal justice systems than in states with broad and generous welfare programs.
Finds that police and prosecutors were overrepresented in the press during a critical period of juvenile justice reform, and that this disproportion led to an increased presence of arguments about the failure of the contemporary juvenile court and the need for punitive change. These findings suggest that expert selection is an important mechanism in explaining the decline of rehabilitative ideologies and the rise of punitive ideologies in news media discourses.
Summarizes a novel dataset describing global digital activism. These new data show that digital activism has a positive impact on drawing people to the streets to protest, especially when civil society groups use digital tools and changing government policy is the goal. If the objective is change in government or government policy, civil society groups have demonstrated success with just modest street protests and a few digital tools.