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April 2014Vol. 15, No. 4Multidisciplinary Child Protection Teams

An article from the March/April 2013 issue of Social Work Today highlights the child welfare social worker's role on hospital-based multidisciplinary child protection teams. The emergency room is often the first entry point into child welfare for abused children in crisis, and these child protection teams—typically composed of individuals with many clinical specialties, including pediatrics, trauma, nursing, psychology, and social work—are essential to the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of child abuse.

The article is built around interviews from a variety of clinical team members whose input provides a consistent theme: The social worker is the glue that holds the team together. Although the professional composition of multidisciplinary teams may vary by hospital and, even within teams, roles and responsibilities may vary on a case-by-case basis, the child welfare social worker is generally responsible for and/or coordinates the following efforts:

  • Serves as the clinical and team coordinator
  • Serves as a liaison to families
  • Communicates and arranges visits with outside agencies, including child welfare, law enforcement, and prosecuting attorneys
  • Is knowledgeable about and connects children, families, and staff with local child abuse programs
  • Provides psychosocial diagnostic assessment (such as child interviewing), family support, and therapy/counseling services
  • Ensures effective communication throughout diagnosis and treatment of child abuse cases, especially in cases of child sexual abuse when family and staff may be uncomfortable with the abusive situation

The article also discusses the qualities of effective child protection teams, provides information and guidance geared toward maintaining and improving performance and effectiveness for teams experiencing functional issues, and presents resources and the updated guidelines for developing and operating multidisciplinary teams published by the National Association of Children's Hospitals and Related Institutions. The article concludes by highlighting the growing trend toward using a multidisciplinary child-centered approach across child welfare services in coordination with other clinical and law enforcement disciplines.

"Multidisciplinary Child Protection Teams—The Social Worker's Role," by Jennifer Van Pelt, Social Work Today, 13(2), is available on the Social Work Today website: