Approaches to child protection case management for cases involving people with disabilities

Elizabeth B. Lightfoot, Traci L. LaLiberte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Objectives: This exploratory study examines the delivery of child protection services by county child protection agencies involving cases with a family member with a disability. Method: Telephone surveys were conducted with the directors or their designees of 89% of the child protection agencies in a Midwestern state. Respondents were asked about the policies and/or procedures for approaching cases involving a person with a disability and the barriers and strengths agencies have in serving people with disabilities. Results: Only 6.7% of respondents reported their agency had a written policy related to serving persons with a disability. There were 18 different approaches to serving clients with a disability within child protection, with the most common being informally teaming for information, dual case assignment, and teaming with an outside consultant. Five counties had specialty workers who were experts in both child protection and disability. Barriers reported varied between rural and non-rural counties, with the most important barriers being lack of resources, lack of knowledge regarding disabilities, systems conflicts, and rural issues, such as lack of providers and lack of transportation. Strengths included accessing and coordinating services, individualizing services, good collaboration and creativity. Conclusion: While few county agencies had any written policies, both formal and informal collaboration is happening at the individual level. The lack of standardization in providing services indicates a need for more attention to issues regarding disability within child protection, including more training for workers, the development of models of collaborative case management and the removal of systemic barriers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-391
Number of pages11
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2006
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station and the University of Minnesota Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare.


  • Abuse and neglect
  • Case management
  • Child maltreatment
  • Child protection agencies
  • Disabilities


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