Exploring the Experiences of Child Welfare-Focused Therapeutic Service Providers

  • Marianna L. ColvinEmail author
  • Heather M. Thompson


The importance of mental and behavioral health for child welfare clients is well-documented; yet, little is known about the challenges therapeutic service providers (TSPs) experience working in child welfare practice. To explore this topic, five focus groups were conducted with 40 TSPs in a contracted mental and behavioral health agency and data were analyzed following an inductive thematic process. Eleven primary challenges were identified, including the difficulty of navigating numerous involved parties, an overwhelmed work environment, legal intersections common to child welfare cases, unrealistic agency expectations, and heighten case complexity when working with child welfare populations. Findings are organized across system, agency, and client levels and add to the understanding of TSP perspectives working with child welfare. Targeted interventions are discussed, such as efforts to promote realistic expectations and training strategies, as well as directions for future research to improve the intersection between child welfare and mental and behavioral health.



This study was supported by a grant from the Florida Institute for Child Welfare.


M.L. Colvin and H. M. Thompson received funding through the Florida Institute for Child Welfare for this project. No conflict of interest has been identified.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© National Council for Behavioral Health 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social Work, SO303Florida Atlantic UniversityBoca RatonUSA

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