The Flint MDT Study   [1]

The QIC-ChildRep also studied a multidisciplinary team (MDT) approach to representing children. In 2014, the QIC-ChildRep partnered with Genesee County’s Child Advocacy Team (CAT) office to observe and evaluate multidisciplinary team approaches to representing children in child welfare. The study provided the LGALs two social workers and randomly assigned cases to be either represented by the attorney/social worker team or by the attorney alone.  This study provides both a description of the functioning of these teams collaborating to represent children and a rigorous evaluation of outcomes compared to a control group. 

Research objectives

·       Describe the process of designing and implementing a multidisciplinary team (MDT) approach to representing children.

·       Evaluate whether children have better outcomes when represented by an MDT compared to children represented by an attorney alone.

·       Identify the key elements to a successful collaboration.


·       The study uses qualitative data to describe the events, attitudes, successes, and challenges of the MDT and to evaluate the approach's strengths and weaknesses.

·       The study is also a randomize control trial, designed to detect evidence of differences in outcomes between the intervention (MDT) and control group.


Outcome differences

·       The MDT resulted in quicker resolution of more cases.

o   MDT cases were more likely to be resolved and therefore dismissed at or prior to adjudication.  This result means the court avoided adjudications of jurisdiction, and all the subsequent hearings and procedure that follows, for more cases in the MDT group compared to the control group.

·       The MDT was better at preserving family connections.

o   Children represented by the MDT were more likely to be ever placed with relatives and less likely to be ever placed in non-relative foster care.

o   Both mothers and fathers of children served by the MDT had fewer petitions for termination of parental rights filed.

Reasons for the MDT's impact

·       Attorneys' respect for the social work skillset – the LGALs learned how to trust the social workers to do what was needed on their cases. 

·       Collaboration with the child welfare agency - The social workers collaborated with the child welfare agency to build alliances and tear down barriers.

·       Early access to assessments and services - the social workers provided intensive advocacy early in the case, which often changed the case trajectory.

Remaining challenges

·       Improve inter-professional relationships Differences in professional values and ethics are well-known sources of tension inherent when attorneys and social workers collaborate. The experience in this study was no different.

·       Better protection of due process rights - Individual client confidentiality needs better protecting while parties attempt to collaborate to support the whole family.

[1] The full descriptive narrative will be available in Duquette, CHILDREN'S JUSTICE: How to Improve Legal Representation of Children in the Child Welfare System, ABA Center for Children and the Law, in press.