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Keywords:

  • communication;
  • co-operation;
  • child and family welfare;
  • trust;
  • international comparison

Abstract

This paper looks at the range of differences within European child protection systems and considers the relationship between different approaches and the integration of children and family services. A distinction is made between structures that are child and family welfare focused, and those that are child protection focused. Some of the different structures of service delivery are described and the effect of these structures on the roles of the main stakeholders (and therefore on integration of services) is considered. Reference is made to a practice-based research project that considered co-operation and communication between health and welfare services in 12 countries. This research provides examples of different ways of integrating services and encouraging co-operation.

It is not possible to construct ‘league tables’ of best performing structures and services cross-nationally because there are no reliably comparable statistics, but the research project gave indications of the factors that contributed to better communication and to better outcomes. Structure did not seem to be of primary importance, though it might help or hinder. However, with co-operation, very different structures could work effectively. In general, high levels of material resources helped. However, professional time was the most important resource, because time was needed to develop effective working relationships with other professionals. The factors that facilitated good interdisciplinary and interagency work point to the centrality of a professional and managerial culture that values the development of good working relationships both with families and with other professionals. Conflictual and defensive inter-professional relationships created problems, however well organized the system. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.