Document Type

Transforming Front-Line Child Welfare Practices (2010)

Publication Date



Faculty of Social Work


This report examines the nature of first contacts in child welfare, the level of contact between families and service providers, and the quality of relationships over time across central, integrated, and accessible service delivery models.

I. First Contacts Clarity, consultation, use of power, and positive shifts in perception were central issues identified by parents when discussing their experiences of first contacts with child welfare. More parents in accessible sites had experiences with workers who were clear and provided a sense that they would be supported. Within the accessible sites a strong philosophy of collaboration emerged between worker and participant. Participants appreciated consultation and being included in making decisions. Centralized sites had more accounts of child welfare workers who were perceived as authoritarian and misusing power. Present in both types of models was the trend for negative first contacts and early impressions to shift to positive feelings towards child welfare workers over time. This was slightly more prevalent in the accessible sites and parents from these sites described a more dramatic shift versus those from centralized sites.

II. Level of Contact Between Families and Service Providers Unique to accessible sites were numerous descriptions of multiple ways to contact workers including walking down to the worker’s office. Significant time investment with families was also described more frequently in accessible sites. All of these factors were appreciated by parents and appeared to strengthen relationships. Overall, participants from accessible sites reported more frequent, positive contact with their workers than those from centralized sites.

III. Quality of Relationships Over Time Twice as many parents from accessible settings described more positive relationships over time with their worker than parents served in central settings. These relationships were characterized by good communication and trust between parents and workers, as well as workers possessing a good understanding of family issues and the knowledge about how to help families.

Overall there was more discussion of positive relationships between participants and their workers at accessible sites. Although many of the interpersonal approaches workers used in relationships with families were effective regardless of service model type, it appears that accessible sites offer an advantage over central settings to building relationships over time.