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December/January 2019Vol. 19, No. 10Multidisciplinary Teams Improve Legal Resolution, Family Preservation in Child Welfare Cases

A multidisciplinary team (MDT) approach to representing children in child protection cases results in quicker resolution of more cases and better family preservation than a non-MDT approach, according to a project of the National Quality Improvement Center on the Representation of Children in the Child Welfare System (QIC-ChildRep).

The QIC-ChildRep partnered with a child advocacy team in Michigan's Genesee County (Flint) in 2014 to evaluate the MDT approach to representing children. The project had three objectives:

  • Describe the process of designing and implementing an MDT approach
  • Evaluate whether children have better outcomes with an MDT
  • Identify the elements of a successful collaboration

The Flint MDT study provided the lawyer-guardians ad litem (LGALs) with two social workers to collaborate on legal representation and their cases were randomly assigned to be represented by either a social worker-attorney (i.e., MDT) team or just the attorney.

The evaluation used a randomized control trial and concluded that the MDT cases were more likely to be resolved, and therefore dismissed, before adjudication. This meant the court avoided the adjudications and related hearings of more cases in the MDT group than for those in the control group.

The MDT approach also resulted in better family preservation outcomes. Children represented by an MDT were less likely to be placed in nonrelative foster care and more likely to be placed with relatives than non-MDT cases, and parents served by an MDT experienced fewer petitions for the termination of parental rights than non-MDT cases.

The QIC-ChildRep attributes the positive outcomes of the MDT approach to the LGALs trust in, and respect for, the social workers' ability to know what to do on a given case and their advocacy early in the case.

For more information, see the QIC-ChildRep website at