Interagency Collaboration Approach to Service Delivery in Child Abuse and Neglect: Perceptions of Professionals
Because the problem of child maltreatment is complex and multicausal, no single profession has the ability to respond adequately. Instead, it requires the involvement of multiple professions and community resources. Health care, law enforcement, child protection services, and social services, among other agencies, are frequently required to investigate allegations and provide protection and rehabilitation for the child and family once child abuse or neglect has been established. Different disciplines collaborate to be more effective and out of concern that uncoordinated efforts to protect children may cause additional harm to victims. Multidisciplinary teams are created to eliminate systemic effects on children that may be the result of redundant interviews, intrusive medical examinations, separation from support systems, intimidating courtroom procedures and tactics, and communication breakdowns (Jones, 1991). This article presents an exploratory qualitative study of interagency collaborative efforts in handling child abuse and neglect cases in Omaha, Nebraska, USA. Individual interviews were conducted with all key disciplines involved: law enforcement, social workers, and child protective workers. Narratives from interviews highlight professionals’ perceptions and experiences with collaboration, the challenges and barriers in interagency collaboration, and the interplay of key elements that influence and shape collaborative practice. The following major themes emerged in relation to positive experiences of collaboration: improved communication and information sharing and availability of support among professionals. Analyses from this initial exploration revealed that a great deal of collaboration occurred across agencies, and that collaborative processes were often positive and rewarding for workers. The barriers in collaboration included differences in philosophies, practices, and goals; leadership and role clarity issues; and scheduling problems. The study identifies the gaps in collaboration across disciplines and provides suggestions for improvements.
Keywords: Interagency Collaboration, Teamwork, Child Welfare, Child Abuse and Neglect, Child Maltreatment, Child Protection
Doctorate Candidate and Lecturer, Graduate School and University Center