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Learn More About Our Team Member Daria "Dasha" Palatna



Recently we sat down for an interview with one of our colleagues, Daria “Dasha” Palatna. Dasha joined the team in 2023 while finishing her PhD and serves as a Program Manager for the Institute of Human Services and the Child Maltreatment Policy Resource Center. 


Can you share what led you into the fields of social work and child welfare?  

It's an interesting story. Sometimes I feel that I didn't choose this path, it chose me. When I graduated high school, I was unsure about my future profession. I asked my family and friends for their opinions, and one friend suggested, "I think you should help people as a social worker." This was in the early 2000s; I had never heard of social work before. Only a few universities in Ukraine offered programs in it. But the idea resonated with me—I wanted to help people. So, I studied social work and started working in the field immediately after graduation. Over the years, my understanding of the profession and my reasons for being in it have evolved, but that’s how it all began. 


Congratulations on recently earning your PhD. Can you share about your focus of research for your dissertation?  

My research focused on the process of mobilizing communities to develop social services in the context of decentralization in Ukraine. Conducted from 2019 to 2022, my research coincided with the decentralization reform, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia. I explored the dynamics of community mobilization under these conditions and identified factors that help communities unite to overcome crises and improve well-being. Key factors included a shared and clear goal, strong leadership, and high citizen participation. Based on my findings, I developed mobilization models, co-wrote a monograph, and am preparing an article for an international journal. 


What similarities or differences in child welfare practice and resources exist between the USA and your home country of Ukraine? 

It's fascinating to compare my work experiences in Ukraine and the USA. The issues that professionals deal with in both countries are very similar. Children and families face challenges like poverty, violence, neglect, broken relationships, addiction, etc. Social workers everywhere strive for safety, permanence, and well-being for children and families. They face similar dilemmas: "How do I make the best decision for the child? What can I change? How do I avoid burnout and stay focused on positive outcomes?". So, at the practice level, there are many similarities. 


The main differences, in my opinion, are at the systemic level. First, as a post-Soviet country, Ukraine still faces a significant value crisis at the general level, with paternalistic values prevailing. Second, despite having basic legislation, detailed policies and procedures are missing to support the development of child welfare in the desired direction and promote positive initiatives. Third, social work in Ukraine is still quite centralized and lacks logical and gradual growth. Each new government leader pushes the field in a completely new direction, and reforms are rarely completed, lacking a unified strategy or long-term processes.   Therefore, despite systemic and policy challenges, the field relies on strong local initiatives, breakthrough leaders, and civil society


Tell us a memorable career highlight and why it meaningful to you? 

I began my career working in a rehabilitation center for children. My best memories are seeing a child being placed into a family—either returning to their biological parents or finding loving adoptive parents. The feeling I had was a unique kind of happiness. Even though it was over 10 years ago, I still get goosebumps when I think about it. 



Tell us something fun you are doing currently involving self-care and why it is important to you? 

I walk three miles daily with my husband and dog to unwind and release stress. I love reading fiction and watching movies to switch off from work. I enjoy taking care of my plants. Watching the sunset with my favorite drink makes me happy. These simple, mundane activities are essential for my well-being.

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