Who gets child protection and welfare services and why?

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O'Leary, Donna
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The Boolean, University College Cork
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When children are reported to Tusla Child and Family Agency, social workers may conduct Initial Assessments to determine their safety and welfare to decide if they need ongoing services. We know little about these impactful decisions. Equally, little is known about the nature of concerns investigated or about the children and families themselves. The research for my PhD addressed this evidence gap. I conducted two empirical studies in Tusla between 2015 and 2016. In the first, a case study, I used case file records and interviews to explore social workers’ rationales for their judgments and decisions. In the second, a cross-sectional study, I coded written case records to profile the population undergoing assessments and identify, through multivariable analysis, factors associated with the decision to provide ongoing service.The study developed new insights into the characteristics of children and families undergoing initial assessment and into decision making processes. Social workers’ judgments about service needs are informed by case factors, policies, resource constraints and their perception of their expertise and role. Almost 40% of children assessed received ongoing service. Multivariable analysis indicated decisions to provide ongoing services are multifactorial, influenced by a handful of current and historic case and organisation factors. This is the largest study of Initial Assessments conducted in Ireland to date. Implications of the findings for interventions, policy and further research are discussed.
Child protection and welfare , Decision making , Service provision , Mixed methods , Tusla Child and Family Agency
O'Leary, D. (2022) 'Who gets child protection and welfare services and why?', The Boolean: Snapshots of Doctoral Research at University College Cork, VI(1), pp. 15-19. doi: 10.33178/boolean.2022.1.3