A case study of interagency coordination in child protection services
This thesis is a case study of coordination policies and practices in child protection services. The study is an exploratory, descriptive account of the processes and outputs of interagency coordination rather than a hypothesis-testing study or an evaluation of the outcomes of coordination. It is based on empirical research undertaken in two research sites in the north of England. The principal data sources used in the research were: an analysis of the social services departmental case records relating to a sample of 48 children on child protection registers for physical or sexual abuse; interviews with 90 professionals (social workers, teachers, community nurses, police officers, doctors and others), drawn from a sub-sample of the 48 cases; a questionnaire issued to those interviewed and selected others, completed by 81 respondents; and analysis of central government guidance, local interagency procedures and other documents. In Chapter One of the thesis, selected topics in the literature on interagency coordination and the policy background to the study are reviewed. The research methods used and the characteristics of the case sample and the interview and questionnaire respondents are presented in Chapter Two. The principal research findings are presented in Chapters Three to Eleven covering three main topics: i) interagency coordination in the key phases of a case career (namely referral, initial investigation, medical assessment, case conferences, child protection plans and intervention, monitoring and review) ii) an examination of local interagency procedures and the role of Area Child Protection Committees and iii) the perceptions and experiences of respondents concerning interagency work. The thesis concludes that there is a high degree of routinised coordination with a relatively clear division of labour in child protection services; that coordination involves principally the exchange of information, arranging for the sequential and separate performance of key tasks and some limited shared decision-making but that there is little joint hands-on collaboration; that interagency activity peaks in the early phases of the construction of a case and diminishes thereafter; that the implementation of policy guidance may be seen as relatively successful and that there is some support for the idea that interagency coordination strategies tend towards conservatism.