Interagency collaboration between child protection and mental health services: practices, attitudes and barriers.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE The aim of this paper is to examine some of the factors that facilitate and hinder interagency collaboration between child protection services and mental health services in cases where there is a parent with a mental illness and there are protection concerns for the child(ren). The paper reports on agency practices, worker attitudes and experiences, and barriers to effective collaboration. METHOD A self-administered, cross-sectional survey was developed and distributed via direct mail or via line supervisors to workers in statutory child protection services, adult mental health services, child and youth mental health services, and Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) Teams. There were 232 completed questionnaires returned, with an overall response rate of 21%. Thirty-eight percent of respondents were statutory child protection workers, 39% were adult mental health workers, 16% were child and youth mental health workers, and 4% were SCAN Team medical officers (with 3% missing data). RESULTS Analysis revealed that workers were engaging in a moderate amount of interagency contact, but that they were unhappy with the support provided by their agency. Principle components analysis and multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) on items assessing attitudes toward other workers identified four factors, which differed in rates of endorsement: inadequate training, positive regard for child protection workers, positive regard for mental health workers, and mutual mistrust (from highest to lowest level of endorsement). The same procedure identified the relative endorsement of five factors extracted from items about potential barriers: inadequate resources, confidentiality, gaps in interagency processes, unrealistic expectations, and professional knowledge domains and boundaries. CONCLUSIONS Mental health and child protection professionals believe that collaborative practice is necessary; however, their efforts are hindered by a lack of supportive structures and practices at the organizational level.

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