Jessica Ball

Jessica Ball
School of Child and Youth Care

BA (UBC), MA, MPH, PhD (Berkeley)

Area of expertise

Cultural ecologies of child development, Indigenous children and families, early childhood care and development, father involvement, community-based research partnerships

Brief Biography

Jessica Ball is a Professor Emerita in the School of Child and Youth Care at the University of Victoria, Canada.  Dr. Ball has developed and taught countless courses on child and youth care, health and development, including teaching at universities in Canada, the United States, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore and Bangladesh.  At UVic, she was Co-Director of a community-based, culturally-grounded Indigenous CYC Diploma program called the First Nations Partnerships Programs (  She was a founding faculty member of UVic’s Early Childhood Development Virtual University, teaching initial cohorts of leaders in Africa and the Middle East ( She teaches upper level undergraduate courses on mental health and addictive behaviours and graduate courses on biological and social determinants of child development.  Her current grant-funded research explores the experiences and outcomes of forced migrant and refugee youth in Southeast Asia ( Her program of research also includes a range of projects centring on cultural and policy contexts of child wellness, early learning, and development ( Dr. Ball is the author or co-author of three books and over 120 journal articles, monographs, and book chapters. Dr. Ball has presented at over 300 conferences, symposia, policy roundtables, and workshops in Canada and internationally.  Her achievements have been recognized by awards for research in service of communities, teaching, knowledge mobilization, and contributions to Indigenous children’s well-being.




Practice Background

Dr. Ball completed her graduate work at the University of California, Berkeley, including a Doctorate in developmental-clinical psychology, a Master of Public Health in international health planning, and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology. Her undergraduate honours thesis in psychology from the University of British Columbia used a constructivist lens to explore gender differences in children’s perceptions of their social worlds. Her M.A. thesis compared goal attainment among adults receiving four different treatments for depression. Her M.P.H. thesis assessed the prevalence of alcohol use preceding admissions to medical emergency services. Her doctoral research was one of the first studies to use a video-playback procedure to obtain research participants’ accounts of their marital communications and to analyse data using a multi-method, ground theory building approach. During a pre-doctoral internship with San Francisco Mental Health Services, Dr. Ball published one of the first studies in the U.S. on the social problems and self-reported needs of homeless high users of psychiatric emergency services, in the Journal of Hospital and Community Psychiatry. Following this, Dr. Ball practiced as a clinical and community psychologist in San Francisco City and County Mental Health and in a mental health service in Malaysia funded by the United States State Department.

Dr. Ball spent 12 years, from 1984 to 1996, in Southeast Asia, working as a professor for a consortium of US universities delivering post-secondary education in Malaysia, and then for Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. She also worked with community service agencies and government ministries on research and programs involving mental health, youth health risk behaviours, and all levels of education from post-graduate to preschool.
Upon joining the faculty at the University of Victoria in 1996 as a Visiting Associate Professor in Psychology, Dr. Ball played a key role in creating a practicum in psychological assessment of children and youth through an ongoing service contract between the Department of Psychology graduate clinical training program and the Ministry for Children and Family Development. Shifting to the School of Child and Youth Care in 2001, for 10 years Dr. Ball was Co-Coordinator and subsequently Coordinator of the First Nations Partnership Programs, an award-winning innovation in delivering a culturally-based child and youth care diploma in land-based communities through partnerships with First Nations ( She led an evaluation of seven such program deliveries, earning the program an award from the Lawson Foundation and UNESCO recognition as a Best Practice incorporating Indigenous Knowledge to build community capacity. Subsequently, her research documented promising apprpoaches to intersectoral service delivery innovated by First Nations, resulting in her conceptualization of a ‘Hook and Hub’ model that has become an aspirational standard for many health and human service organizations.

Research Interests

Dr. Ball’s research interests include (but are not limited to): forced migration, refugee reintegration and resettlement, cultural ecologies of child development, identity documentation and family life in contexts of transnational labour migration, program evaluation, Indigenous early childhood development and early learning, Indigenous fatherhood, child and youth service workforce and policy development, speech and language development, arts-based and other qualitative research methods, and community-engaged scholarship.

Current Work

Dr. Ball has a grant funded program of research focused mainly on the cultural nature of child and family development, the manufacture of marginalization through policies and social processes, and associated program and policy implications ( Projects have included early language development, multilingualism and language-in-education  policy, cultural safety in social services, fathers’ involvement with young children, evaluation of quality child care and child development outcomes, early screening and intervention, and child care capacity building in Indigenous communities and in resource-constrained settings in low income countries. She has led projects in these and related areas for UNICEF, the Aga Khan Foundation, UNESCO, the Open Society Foundations, BRAC, and the Brookings Institute-Centre for Education.  Currently, she is working on network and leadership development for the emerging early childhood sector in Myanmar.
Dr. Ball’s current research, funded by the Social Sciences and Research Council of Canada, examines how forced migrant youth respond to being ejected from their country of origin and life in transit while awaiting a resolution to displacement. This work includes an exploration of the particular challenges facing stateless Rohingya youth. Previous to this, Dr. Ball’s SSHRC funded research explored family, cultural, economic and political determinants of child statelessness in Indonesia, particularly in the context of parents’ transnational migration.   Dr. Ball is a national leader in community-university engagement and in research-based understandings of Indigenous father involvement.  In Canada,  Dr. Ball is best known for her promotion of the concept of cultural safety, and for her study examining First Nations’ innovations in intersectoral coordination of programs for young children and families. Internationally, Dr. Ball is best known for her teaching, writing, and training on the importance of protecting cultural and linguistic diversity through practitioner training, program designs, and national policy.

Sample Publications

Ball, J. & Beazley, H. (2017). Relational ethics of cultural safety, rights and desire: reflections on doing community-engaged research with migrant families in Indonesia.  Revista Migraciones, 42, 119-147.

Ball, J., Butt, L., & Beazley, H. (2017).  Birth registration and protection for children of transnational labor migrants in Indonesia. Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies, 15 (3), 305-325.

Ball, J., & Moselle, S. (2015).  Living liminally: Migrant children living in the Myanmar-Thailand border region.  Global Studies of Childhood, 5(4), 425-436.

Ball, J., & Wangchuk, K.C. (2014). Development of an early childhood care and development sector in Bhutan: Protection of language and culture through a national policy of Gross National Happiness. Global Education Review, 2, 14-22.

Ball, J., Paris, S. G., & Govinda, R. (2014).  Literacy and numeracy skills among children in developing countries.  In D.A. Wagner (Ed.) Learning and education in developing countries: Research and policy for the post-2015 UN development goals (pp. 20-40).  New York: Palgrave  Macmillan.

Ball, J. (2014).  On thin ice: Managing risks in community-university research partnerships. In C. Etmanski, T. Dawson, & B. Hall (Eds.) Learning and teaching community based research: Linking pedagogy to practice (pp. 25-44). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Ball, J. (2012). Promoting education equity for Indigenous children in Canada through quality early childhood programs. In J. Heyman (Ed.), Increasing equity in education: Successful approaches from around the world (pp. 282-312). Oxford University Press.

Ball, J. (2012). Government involvement III: Long-term federal investments in strengthening Indigenous capacity for culturally based preschool. In N. Howe & L. Prochner (Eds.).  New directions in early childhood education and care in Canada(pp.337-366). Vancouver: UBC Press.

Ball, J., & Daly, K. (2012). Father involvement in Canada: Diversity, renewal, and transformation. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Ball, J. (2010). Indigenous fathers reconstituting circles of care. American Journal of Community Psychology: Special Issue on Men, Masculinity, Wellness, Health and Social Justice – Community-based Approaches, (45), 124-138.DOI 10.1007/s10464-009-9293-1

Ball, J. (2010). Enhancing learning of children from diverse language backgrounds: Mother tongue-based bilingual or multilingual education in the early years: Literature review. UNESCO, International Mother Language Development.

Ball, J. (2009). Supporting young Indigenous children’s language development in Canada: A review of research on needs and promising practices. The Canadian Modern Language Review, 66(1), 20-47.

Ball, J. & Janyst, P. (2008).  Enacting research ethics in partnerships with Indigenous communities in Canada: “Do it in a good way.” Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics. 3(2), 33-51.

Ball, J. & Bernhardt, B.M. (2008).  First Nations English dialects in Canada: Implications for speech-language pathology practice. Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics. 22:8, 570-588.