Virginia Commonwealth University

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Karen Smith Rotabi

Karen Smith Rotabi

Assistant Professor
Phone: (804) 828-5411

Global social work practice

“At one time there was a dismissal of international social work practice as merely an ‘interest area’ that took place outside of our daily routines here in the U.S. Global practice is now a reality, given immigration patterns and world events, including war. For example, our military veterans are returning to their families in communities throughout the U.S. with complex global experiences, forever impacted by their engagement in the Middle East or elsewhere. Picking up on my previous practice experience, I am again working on relationship enhancement programs for military and veteran families.

“Other areas of interest include issues of immigrants from regions such as Latin America who are placing greater expectations on social workers to engage with bilingual practice skills or interpretation services. Other examples of global intersections include intercountry adoption, asylum seeking and human trafficking. All of these phenomena have significant consequences for social workers, often challenging us ethically.

“My personal practice experience is largely in global child welfare and family support settings with a background that includes Peace Corps, military social work/child protection and domestic violence, child health promotion and adoption. I bring all of these pieces together into my conception of global social work practice. I am particularly interested in families impacted by war, especially in a post-conflict context. Having worked in such settings, I find the complexities of post-conflict environments to be a real challenge whether here in the U.S. with military families and returning veterans or overseas in nations like Guatemala and El Salvador struggling to rebuild after war. Ultimately, my scholarship pulls together these pieces under a family support, ethical engagement and human rights perspective.”


  • Ph.D. – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, N.C.
  • M.S.W. – University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C.
  • M.P.H. – University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C.

Research interests

  • Families impacted by war

Courses taught

  • Social Work Practice I
  • Social Work Practice II
  • Social Work Planning and Administrative Practice I
  • Social Work Planning and Administrative Practice II
  • Human Behavior in the Social Environment

Selected publications

  • Rotabi, K.S. & Bergquist, K.J.S. (2010). Vulnerable children in the aftermath of Haiti’s earthquake of 2010: A call for sound policy and processes to prevent international child sales and theft. Journal of Global Social Work Practice.

  • Robinson, L.C., Carroll, E.B., Orthner, D., Matthews, W., & Rotabi, K.S. (2008). Essential life skills for military families: Mobilizing the Cooperative Extension Service in North Carolina. Journal of Family & Consumer Sciences, 100(1), 52-56.

  • Rotabi, K.S. & Bunkers, K.M. (2008, November). Intercountry adoption reform based on the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption: An update on Guatemala in 2008. Social Work and Society News Magazine.

  • Rotabi, K.S. (2008). Face-to-face with disability and poverty in Central America: Learning from amputees about social support and resilience. Reflections: Narratives of Professional Helping, 14 (1), 55-61.

  • Rotabi, K.S. (2008). Intercountry adoption baby boom prompts new U.S. standards. Invited Feature Article for Immigration Law Today, 27(1), 12-19.

  • Rotabi, K.S. (2008). Ecological theory origin from natural to social science or vice versa?: A brief conceptual history for social work. Advances in Social Work, 8 (1), 113-123.

  • Rotabi, K.S., Gamble, D.N., & Gammonley, D. (2007). Partnerships in study abroad: Reflections and recommendations from host country facilitators. Reflections: Narratives of Professional Helping, 13 (4), 5-17.

  • Gammonley, D., Rotabi, K.S., & Gamble, D.N. (2007). Enhancing global understanding with study abroad: Ethically grounded approaches to international learning. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 27 (3/4), 115-135.

  • Rotabi, K.S., Gammonley, D., Gamble, D.N., & Weil, M.O. (2007). Integrating globalization into the social work curriculum. Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, XXXIV(2), 165-184.

  • Rotabi, K.S., Gammonley, D., & Gamble, D.N. (2006). Ethical guidelines for study abroad: Can we transform ugly Americans into engaged global citizens? British Journal of Social Work, 36 (3), 467-484.

  • Edwards, E.H., Vaughn, J., & Rotabi, K.S. (2005). Child abuse investigation and treatment for deaf and hard of hearing children: Ethical practice and policy. The Social Policy Journal, 4 (3/4), 57-71.

Professional affiliations

  • Council on Social Work Education