Child welfare caseworkers as service brokers for youth in foster care: findings from project focus

Authors: Dorsey S, Kerns SE, Trupin EW, Conover KL, Berliner L.

Date: 2012

Abstract:¬†Youth in the foster care system have substantially higher rates of mental health needs compared to the general population, yet they rarely receive targeted, evidence-based practices (EBPs). Increasingly emerging in the literature on mental health services is the importance of “brokers” or “gateway providers” of services. For youth in foster care, child welfare caseworkers often play this role. This study examines caseworker-level outcomes of Project Focus, a caseworker training and consultation model designed to improve emotional and behavioral outcomes for youth in foster care through increased linkages with EBPs. Project Focus was tested through a small, randomized trial involving four child welfare offices. Caseworkers in the Project Focus intervention group demonstrated an increased awareness of EBPs and a trend toward increased ability to identify appropriate EBP referrals for particular mental health problems but did not have significantly different rates of actual referral to EBPs. Dose of consultation was associated with general awareness of EBPs. Implications for practice and outcomes for youth are discussed.

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