Working Together: The Impact and Caregiver Perceptions of a Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) Response to Child Abuse and Neglect Investigations
This study assessed the impact of a multidisciplinary team (MDT) response used in an urban county as well as caregiver perceptions of the investigation process. Following child abuse and neglect reports, children and their families can become involved in investigations that span multiple government systems including child welfare, criminal justice, and health agencies. The multi-system response may require families to interact with police officers, child welfare workers, and health providers.
Data were analyzed in a single urban county in which families were ordered by law enforcement to meet the following day with representatives from the MDT agencies. In addition to coordinating the multi-system investigation, the MDT sought to ensure that caregivers understood the investigation process and could participate fully in efforts to meet their children’s needs. Interviews with 32 caregivers were used to assess perceptions of the investigation.
Analyses of administrative data revealed that, relative to comparison cases, MDT cases were three times more likely to result in substantiated allegations; took an average 1.72 days longer to investigate than comparison cases; had more documented contacts during the investigation; and resulted in more out-of-home placement in the first 90 days after the referral allegation. Caregiver interviews revealed that participants perceived both strengths and limitations of the MDT response. Participants’ responses emphasized that clear communication is essential to caregiver engagement, during the initial days when the investigation begins, and over time.