A photo of Sarah Beal.

Sarah J. Beal, PhD

  • Developmental Psychologist, Division of Behavioral Medicine and Clinical Psychology
  • Scientific Director, Child Welfare Research, CHECK Center
  • Director, General Pediatrics Research Fellowship, Division of General and Community Pediatrics
  • Associate Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics



I’m a developmental psychologist interested in factors that shape the health and well-being of adolescents and young adults. While conducting my research, I include how maltreatment and interactions with healthcare and child welfare systems impact adolescent and young adult health and health risk behaviors.

I began my career studying adolescent development and transition to adulthood. I wanted to understand what experiences in adolescence were most important for shaping adult outcomes. As a graduate research assistant, I was introduced to the child welfare system and became curious about how child welfare policies impacted adolescent development. My research combines these two interests.

Adolescents and young adults involved with the child welfare system as a result of maltreatment have worse health and psychosocial outcomes overall than their peers. These outcomes occur even though they use more health services than others in their peer group. In my lab, we explore factors that influence these differences in health and how we can deliver more effective care and interventions to help young people achieve better health and psychosocial outcomes.

Our lab uses child welfare administrative data linked with electronic health records to understand the health needs of fostered youth. We developed technology to share health information with caseworkers and clinicians through a platform called IDENTITY. We found that youth in protective custody receive more healthcare services after a placement change than they do once they are in a stable placement. We identify health behaviors that help explain why adolescents in foster care use more healthcare services than their peers.

Our lab also conducts prospective, longitudinal studies with maltreated youth, youth in protective custody and their caregivers. Through these studies, we have investigated how to support young people preparing for emancipation to better engage with the healthcare system, studied the link between maltreatment, mental health, and the emergence of pain and other health conditions and investigated the onset of health risk behaviors among older teens in custody.

If you’re interested in learning more about our work or joining our lab, please contact me via email.

Visit the Child Welfare Research Lab.

PhD: University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE, 2011.

Fellowship: Pediatric Primary Care Research, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2014.

Services and Specialties

Behavioral Medicine and Clinical Psychology


Developmental psychology; general pediatrics research fellowship

Research Areas

Clinical Psychology, Behavioral Medicine



The Impact of Health Care Education on Utilization Among Adolescents Preparing for Emancipation From Foster Care. Beal, SJ; Nause, K; Lutz, N; Greiner, MV. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2020; 66:740-746.


Socioeconomic Characteristics of Neighborhoods where Youth in Out-of-Home Care Reside. Beal, SJ; Greiner, MV; Crosby, I; Beck, AF. Journal of Public Child Welfare. 2020; 14:320-335.


Perspectives on Informed Consent Practices for Minimal-Risk Research Involving Foster Youth. Greiner, MV; Beal, SJ; Antommaria, AH M. Pediatrics. 2020; 145:e20192845.


Heightened risk of pain in young adult women with a history of childhood maltreatment: a prospective longitudinal study. Beal, SJ; Kashikar-Zuck, S; King, C; Black, W; Barnes, J; Noll, JG. PAIN. 2020; 161:156-165.


Sharing personal health record data elements in protective custody: youth and stakeholder perspectives. Dexheimer, JW; Greiner, MV; Beal, SJ; Johnson, D; Kachelmeyer, A; Vaughn, LM. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. 2019; 26:714-721.


Improving Information Sharing for Youth in Foster Care. Greiner, MV; Beal, SJ; Dexheimer, JW; Divekar, P; Patel, V; Hall, ES. Pediatrics. 2019; 144:e20190580.


Childhood Adversity and Associated Psychosocial Function in Adolescents with Complex Trauma. Beal, SJ; Wingrove, T; Mara, CA; Lutz, N; Noll, JG; Greiner, MV. Child and Youth Care Forum: an independent journal of day and residential child and youth care practice. 2019; 48:305-322.


Understanding Health Risks for Adolescents in Protective Custody. Beal, SJ; Nause, K; Crosby, I; Greiner, MV. Journal of Applied Research on Children. 2019; 9:2.


The Role of Shared Decision-Making in Shaping Intent to Access Services for Adolescents in Protective Custody. Beal, SJ; Wingrove, T; Nause, K; Lipstein, E; Mathieu, S; Greiner, MV. Child Care in Practice. 2019; 25:64-78.


Who Speaks for Me? Addressing Variability in Informed Consent Practices for Minimal Risk Research Involving Foster Youth. Greiner, MV; Beal, SJ; Allen, A; Patel, V; Meinzen-Derr, J; Antommaria, AH M. 2018; 11:111-131.

From the Blog