Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Graduate School of Social Work

First Advisor

Jennifer Bellamy, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Amy He, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Nicole Nicotera, Ph.D.


Child welfare, Collaboration, Interprofessional collaboration, Multidisciplinary, Reunification


Various professionals play a role in ensuring that foster children achieve safe and timely reunification, including child protective services caseworkers, guardians ad litem, mental health therapists and substance abuse counselors. Guided by ecological systems and relational coordination theories, this mixed methods dissertation explored how communication and joint decision-making between these professionals - two key components of interprofessional collaboration (IPC) - affects the safe and timely reunification of foster children

The quantitative phase involved analysis of administrative data collected from one urban county in a mountain region state. Logistic regressions were run to test if caseworker communication and joint decision-making with guardians ad litem, therapists, and SA counselors was linked to timely reunification (N = 137) or safe reunification (N = 83). In the qualitative phase, semi-structured interviews were conducted with a sample of caseworkers, guardians ad litem, mental health therapists and substance abuse counselors (N = 21) to uncover the process by which these collaborative activities affect safe and timely reunification.

The qualitative findings suggest interprofessional communication facilitates timely reunification by helping professionals make decisions in a timely manner, stay on the same page, and identify the barriers to reunification that need to be addressed. The findings indicate that joint decision-making expedites reunification because it results in better decisions being made regarding services to provide, and it prevents one professional from dictating whether reunification can occur; However, the qualitative findings also suggest joint decision-making can delay reunification if professionals are in disagreement. In the quantitative phase, only caseworker communication and joint decision-making with guardians ad litem was associated with timely reunification. While the qualitative findings suggest interprofessional communication and joint decision-making can result in safe reunification by leading to more informed decisions being made, this was not supported by the quantitative findings. Overall, the findings have numerous implications for how professionals, agency administrators, and policymakers can enhance case services and facilitate timely reunification by enhancing IPC. The findings will hopefully motivate scholars to conduct additional research that examines how IPC affects child welfare-involved families and encourage policymakers and foundations to provide funding for this type of research.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Jon Phillips


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

158 p.


Social work, Public administration