Can cross-agency teams improve the response to severe abuse for children and families: Findings from the evaluation of the multi-agency investigation and support team (Western Australia)

Program evaluation snapshots
Thursday 26 July, 1050 – 1100


Dr James Herbert
Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

Informed by reviews of previous research, and by examining the characteristics of similar responses, the researchers undertook an evaluation of a new approach to responding to severe abuse in Western Australia. The Multiagency Investigation and Support Team (MIST) set out to improve the response to these cases from a specialised centre with co-located detectives, interviewers, child protection workers, therapists, and an integrated child and family advocate role. This presentation will introduce findings from a quasi-experimental follow-forward study comparing MIST against standard practice at the time.

Drawing on a theory of change developed from the existing literature, the researchers drew on de-identified administrative data to evaluate the effect of MIST on short-term outcomes associated with police and child protection investigations. Data on caregiver satisfaction and service delivery/engagement with services were also included.

The evaluation consisted of three studies: a qualitative study of worker perceptions (n=33), a descriptive study of the fidelity of MIST to its establishing principles (n=509), and a quasi-experimental follow-forward comparison between MIST and Practice as Usual (n=402). The evaluation found that workers and caregivers were highly satisfied with the response, that children and non-abusive caregivers engaged with therapeutic services at high rates, and that the response was significantly quicker. This occurred without adversely affecting the rate of arrest for offences.

The evaluation suggests that the integration of cross-agency teams can improve the response to severe abuse cases; however, the degree of benefit in part depends on the existing arrangements teams are compared against.