Improving Child Well-Being: Interagency Collaboration Between Child Welfare and Specialized Behavioral, Mental, and Physcial Health Services Providers

Friday, January 16, 2015: 2:30 PM-4:15 PM
Balconies I, Fourth Floor (New Orleans Marriott)
Cluster: Child Welfare
Symposium Organizer:
Amy He, LCSW, University of Southern California
John Landsverk, PhD, Oregon Social Learning Center
Families that come into contact with child welfare systems (CWS) are often multi-needs families dealing with co-occurring problems of child maltreatment as well as behavioral, mental, and physical health needs, and other adversities. This has resulted in CWS being a de facto social services care system that are challenged with providing evidence-based and integrated care for over 500,000 children and families across the United States. In order to provide services that meet clients' needs, CWS must engage in collaborative practices with specialized services providers with the ultimate goal of increasing access to and utilization of specialized services to improve child and family outcomes. Models of collaboration vary but can include practices such as: (1) establishing memorandums of understandings for collaboration and data linkages; (2) co-locating staff; and (3) developing cross-system training. Indeed, growing research indicates that engagement in collaborative strategies between CWS and specialized service providers is associated with increased rates of service referrals, expedited access to care, and service utilization.

This symposium includes four multi-methods studies that examine interagency collaboration between CWS and behavioral, mental, and physical health service providers, and presents research using multiple units of analyses (organizations, service providers, and clients).

The first paper presents research on national trends in collaborative practices between CWS and drug and alcohol services providers, and examines organizational factors that affect engagement in various types and intensity of collaboration. Findings from this study suggest that organizational factors such as agency director's experience and agency staffing play pivotal roles in CWS' engagement in interagency collaboration.

The second paper is a qualitative study exploring workers’ perceptions of how CWS contractual relationships with private behavioral health organizations influence children’s service access by both constraining and facilitating referrals. This study finds that workers perceive contracts expedite referral and service linkage processes, but may restrict their ability to tailor referrals to the unique needs of children with complex or costly treatment needs.

The third paper assesses the prevalence of mental health disorders and service use among a sample of CWS-involved youth screened through a specialized mental health screening tool developed through interagency collaborative efforts. Findings indicate that implementation of this specialized screening tool by non-mental health specialized service providers (child-welfare workers) facilitated successful identification of a subsample of maltreated children at elevated risk for mental health needs.

The final paper is a mixed-methods study that examines caregiver adherence to return appointments for children receiving pediatric health services from community partners; this is a select group of health providers who have established collaboration with their local CWS to provide specialized assessment and treatment services. This study finds that the nonadherence rate for return appointments was greater for CWS-involved children than in other studies with similar pediatric populations. Results indicate that sending reminders, possibly using text messaging, may increase caregivers’ attendance at return appointments.

Overall, this symposium serves to highlight interagency collaboration’s role in improving delivery of and linkages to specialized services for high-needs clients, as well as interagency collaboration’s potential for increasing organizational service delivery capacity.

* noted as presenting author
Constraints and Benefits of Child Welfare Contracts with Behavioral Health Providers: Front Line Worker Perceptions
Alicia C. Bunger, MSW, PhD, Ohio State University; Yiwen Cao, MSW, Ohio State University; Jill Hoffman, MSW, Ohio State University; Hillary Robertson, MPH, Ohio State University; Lauren View, Ohio State University; Nathan Doogan, PhD, Ohio State University
Ensuring Mental Health Screening for Child Welfare-Involved Children through Interagency Collaboration
Dorian Traube, PhD, University of Southern California; Amy He, LCSW, University of Southern California; Caroline Sheng Foong Lim, MSW, University of Southern California; Gregory Lecklitner, PhD, Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health; Adrienne Olson, LCSW, Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services
Pediatric Return Appointment Adherence for Child Welfare-Involved Children
Janet U. Schneiderman, PhD, University of Southern California; Smith Caitlin, MA, University of Southern California; Janet S. Arnold-Clark, MD, Violence Intervention Program; Jorge Fuentes, MD, Violence Intervention Program; Andrea Brinkmann, MSW, University of Southern California
See more of: Symposia