Working with families with parental mental health and/or drug and alcohol issues where there are child protection concerns: inter-agency collaboration

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Child and Family Social Work, 2017, 22 pp. 1 - 10
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© 2015 Commonwealth of Australia. Child and Family Social Work © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd Child abuse commonly occurs within the context of multiple risk factors, in particular parental mental health and/or drug and alcohol problems. As no one agency can address all these factors, inter-agency collaboration is paramount to the protection of vulnerable children, especially in families with a complex array of problems. This paper outlines a range of recommendations to improve collaboration between child protection workers and mental health/drug & alcohol (MH/D&A) clinicians from the perspective of Keep Them Safe-Whole Family Team (KTS-WFT) clinicians. Taking referrals from child protection, the KTS-WFT offers interventions to families with parental MH/D&A problems where there are child protection concerns. As part of a larger evaluation of a KTS-WFT site, 10 KTS-WFT clinicians participated in in-depth interviews. Analysis of the interviews identified collaboration with child protection as a primary theme. Participants reported a number of barriers to effective collaboration; in particular, participants reported challenges with information sharing and confidentiality, inconsistency in terms of the level and style of collaboration, tensions between the different theoretical paradigms that underpin practice for MH/D&A clinicians vs. child protection workers, and insufficient clarity around processes and expectations. Consistent with the identified barriers, primary recommendations to improve collaboration were to improve information sharing, overcome silo ways of thinking, manage risk together more consistently, and develop consistent processes and expectations.
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