Who Gets Child Protection and Welfare Services and Why?


  • Donna O'Leary Tusla Child and Family Agency. University College Cork




Child Protection and Welfare, Decision Making, Service Provision, Mixed Methods, Tusla Child and Family Agency


When children are reported to Tusla Child and Family Agency, social workers may conduct Initial Assessments to determine their safety and welfare to decide if they need ongoing services. We know little about these impactful decisions. Equally, little is known about the nature of concerns investigated or about the children and families themselves. To fill this gap, two empirical studies were conducted in Tusla between 2015 and 2016. The first explored social worker’s rationales for their judgments and decisions. The second, cross-sectional study profiled the population undergoing assessments and identified through multivariable analysis, factors associated with the decision to provide ongoing service. The study developed new insights into the characteristics of children and families undergoing initial assessment and into decision making processes. Social workers’ judgments about service needs are informed by case factors, policies, resource constraints and their perception of their expertise and role. Almost 40% of children assessed received ongoing service. Multivariable analysis indicated decisions to provide ongoing services are multifactorial, influenced by a handful of current and historic case and organisation factors. This is the largest study of initial assessments conducted in Ireland to date. Implications of the findings for interventions, policy and further research are discussed.