Jeanne M. Giovannoni

1931 – 2009

Highly regarded scholar, educator and child welfare advocate

A well-respected social work scholar and educator who mentored countless students throughout her career, Jeanne Giovannoni gave a lifetime of service to the social work profession and made significant contributions to the welfare of children and families throughout the country. She was a researcher, teacher and child-welfare advocate, who wrote extensively in the area of child abuse. Her work proved instrumental in illuminating the existence of varying perceptions of what constitutes abuse and the effects of such abuse on child development.

Born in San Francisco in 1931, Giovannoni earned her bachelor’s degree in social welfare in 1953 from the University of California, Berkeley and completed her MSW there two years later. In1966, she received her DSW from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts.

As a professor, she taught and influenced hundreds of social work students who, in turn, serve many Californians today. A longtime professor at the UCLA School of Social Welfare and associate vice chancellor for faculty relations, Giovannoni became a professor emeritus after her retirement in 1993.

A prolific scholar, Giovannoni was best known for Defining Child Abuse (1979), a widely cited book co-written with fellow UCLA colleague Rosina M. Becerra. The breadth and depth of her writing served as a foundation for defining child abuse. The book drew on interviews with pediatricians, social workers, law enforcement, attorneys and other professionals who work with child abuse victims and their families. An important finding of this research proposed the existence of diverse perceptions of what constitutes child abuse based on individual professions and culture–one of many positions that was years ahead of its time.

In addition to her acclaimed scholarship, Giovannoni consulted with the child welfare system in Los Angeles and with other systems throughout the country. She was also a consultant to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Veterans Administration.

Giovannoni made significant contributions to the community. She served on the board of directors of El Nido Family Centers for a number of years and as the board chair for the YMCA of Greater Long Beach, Downtown Community Development Branch. In both of these positions, Giovannoni helped shape program development and always advocated for research-based practice. She had a major impact on the field of social work through her teaching, research and publications. “Dr. Giovannoni embodied social work values and lived by them every day. She was truly a social work professional for all of us to emulate” a colleague said in tribute of her work.

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