Systemic barriers to effective utilization of decision making tools in child protection practice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This qualitative research was designed to evaluate the extent to which a national reform in Israeli child protection decision making committees was achieving its aim to strengthen professional judgment through introducing a new standard tools package into practice. Twenty-one case studies of families referred to the committee were investigated and followed up after six months. Data were collected through interviews with social workers, field observations of the committees’ discussions and document review. Using a systems approach as a conceptual framework, everyday practice was studied within its organizational context. A key finding of the research was a very limited utilization of the tools in practice. Evidence showed no advanced performance in the few cases where the tools were used, and that when they were used they mainly operated to record customary practice. Follow up data provided limited evidence of improvement in the safety and well-being of vulnerable children. The analysis revealed several systemic factors that interfered with the tools being fully and successfully implemented, including pressure of workloads, practitioners’ inadequate skills, limited professional support, and an organizational culture that discouraged sound practice. The research directs attention to the organizational changes needed in order to enhance the provision of effective help for children and families.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-215
Number of pages9
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
StatePublished - 1 May 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd


  • Child protection
  • Decision making
  • Professional judgment
  • Systems approach

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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