Child welfare caseworkers as brokers of mental health services: a pilot evaluation of Project Focus Colorado

Child Maltreat. 2015 Feb;20(1):37-49. doi: 10.1177/1077559514562448. Epub 2014 Dec 18.


Youth in the child welfare system (CWS) have substantially higher rates of mental health needs compared to the general population, yet they rarely receive targeted, evidence-based practices (EBPs). Caseworkers play the critically important role of "service broker" for CWS youth and families. This study examines preliminary caseworker-level outcomes of Project Focus Colorado (PF-C), a training and consultation program designed to improve access to EBPs for CWS youth. PF-C evaluation occurred in four child welfare offices (two intervention [n = 16 caseworkers] vs. two practice-as-usual, wait-list control [WLC; n = 12 caseworkers]). Receipt of PF-C was associated with significantly increased caseworker knowledge of (a) EBPs, (b) child mental health problems, (c) evidence-based treatment components targeting mental health problem areas, and (d) mental health screening instruments, compared to WLC. Dose of training and consultation was associated with greater ability to correctly classify mental health problems and match them to EBPs. These preliminary results suggest that targeted training and consultation help to improve caseworker knowledge of children's mental health needs, EBPs for mental health, and mental health screening instruments.

Keywords: child welfare workers; children in child welfare; evidence-based practice; mental health services; service delivery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Case Management / organization & administration*
  • Child
  • Child Welfare*
  • Colorado
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Evidence-Based Practice / methods
  • Evidence-Based Practice / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Mental Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Social Work / organization & administration