Professional Biography

Dr. Caroline Watts is the Director of School and Community Engagement at Penn GSE, and works to facilitate and support partnerships with schools and communities in order to improve the educational outcomes and overall wellbeing of children and youth in Philadelphia. As a psychologist, program administrator, practicing child therapist and university educator, she has devoted her career to developing healthy educational environments for children and youth. She has focused on building capacity in mental health and educational systems to serve the complex needs of urban children, youth, and families through creating innovative institutional partnerships among schools, universities, and community health organizations. 

At Penn GSE, Dr. Watts has served as the university’s liaison to the Henry C. Lea Elementary School in West Philadelphia, and as a member of the Penn Partnership faculty group that served as a leadership support team for several West Philadelphia schools. She has also been the School's Coordinator of Special Education, working across divisions to develop coursework and experiential placements for students that will provide critical learning related to issues in special education and English language learners (ELL). In addition to her school- and community-based work, Dr. Watts coordinates the internship program for students in the Professional Counseling Program at Penn GSE.

Before coming to Penn GSE in 2008, Dr. Watts was the founding director of the Children’s Hospital Neighborhood Partnerships Program (CHNP), the community mental health outreach program of the Department of Psychiatry at Children’s Hospital Boston. Dr. Watts was also a lecturer on education in the Risk and Prevention Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Dr. Watts has over 20 years of experience working in community and school settings to develop models for prevention and intervention services provided in a tripartite university-community agency-public school collaborative structure. She is a licensed practitioner of psychology in the states of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Dr. Watts has served as clinical director of the Devereux-Deerhaven Residential Treatment Center for Girls in Chester, New Jersey, the nation’s largest not-for-profit behavioral health care provider. She is on the Education and Behavioral Health Committees of the Board of Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), a Philadelphia-based child advocacy organization.


Research Interests and Current Projects

Dr. Watts’s research interests focus on the process of developing effective institutional partnerships to support the emotional and developmental growth of all children. She is a co-author of the School Mental Health Capacity Instrument (2010), a survey and planning tool to help schools assess and build their capacity to promote positive school climate and proactive responses to student needs. Her current projects involve developing strategies for partnering effectively with the School District of Philadelphia Learning Networks to promote quality mathematics instruction and assessment, and to improve behavioral health and mental health responsiveness to students.



Ed.D. (Counseling and Consulting Psychology) Harvard University, 1993

Ed.M. (Counseling and Consulting Psychology) Harvard University, 1987

B.A. (Sociology and Psychology) Yale University, 1982

Areas of Expertise

Community-school-university partnerships
School mental health
School climate
Social-emotional development

Selected Publications

Zorc, C. S., O’Reilly, A. L., Matone, M., Long, J., Watts, C. L., & Rubin, D. (2013, May). The relationship of placement experience to school absenteeism and changing schools in young, school-aged children in foster care. Children and Youth Services Review, 35(5), 826–833.

Noonan K. G., Matone, M., Zlotnik, S., Hernandez-Mekonnen, R., Watts, C. L., Rubin, D. M., & Mollen C. (2012, February). Cross-system barriers to educational success for children in foster care: The front line perspective. Children and Youth Services Review34(2), 403­–408. 

Beardslee, W. R., Ayoub, C. C., Avery, M. W., Watts, C. L., & O’Carroll, K. L. (2010, October). Family connections: An approach for strengthening early care systems in facing depression and adversity. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. 

Beardslee, W. R., Avery, M. W., Ayoub, C.C., Watts, C. L., & Lester, P. (2010, September). Building resilience: The power to cope with adversity. Zero to Three: Practical Tips.

Feigenberg, L. F., Watts, C. L., & Buckner, J.C. (2010, June). The school mental health capacity instrument: Development of an assessment and consultation tool. Journal of School Mental Health.

Nikitopoulos, C. E., Waters, J. S., Collins, E., & Watts C. L. (2009). Understanding violence: A school initiative for violence prevention. Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community, 37, 275–288.

Beardslee, W., Avery, M., Ayoub, C., & Watts, C. L. (2009). Family connections: Helping early Head Start/Head Start staff and parents make sense of mental health challenges. Journal of Zero to Three, 29(6), 34–43.

Ayoub, C., Beardslee, W., Avery, M., & Watts, C. L. (2009). Preventive intervention for parental depression: Making family connections. In Head Start Bureau, Administration of Children, Youth and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Head Start Bulletin, 80.

Watts, C. L., & Buckner, J. C. (2007). Children’s Hospital neighborhood partnerships: A model for service delivery and systems change through school-community-university collaboration. The Community Psychologist, 40(3). 

Reilly, N. R., Botta, A., & Watts, C. L. (2005). Depression in adolescents. In D. R. DeMaso & J. Gold (Eds.), An adolescent mental health and wellness curriculum: A starter kit for schools. Boston, MA: Children's Hospital Boston and McLean Hospital.

Gerber, E. B., & Watts, C. L. (2005). Evaluating mental health prevention programs in schools. In D. R. DeMaso & J. Gold (Eds.), An adolescent mental health and wellness curriculum: A starter kit for schools. Boston, MA: Children's Hospital Boston and McLean Hospital.

Watts, C. L. (2005). Using the adolescent mental health and wellness curriculum in your school. In D. R. DeMaso & J. Gold (Eds.), An adolescent mental health and wellness curriculum: A starter kit for schools. Boston, MA: Children's Hospital Boston and McLean Hospital.

Watts, C. L., & Murphy, J. A. (1998). The early childhood prevention project manual.

Selman, R. L., Watts, C. L., & Schultz, L. H. (1997). Fostering friendship: Pair therapy for treatment and prevention. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter.