“I Don't Know What They Know”: Knowledge transfer in mandated referral from child welfare to early intervention
Maltreated children face disproportionate risks for developmental delay and behavior problems. Federal legislation passed in 2003 and 2004 mandates referrals of maltreated children under the age of 3years to Early Intervention (EI) services. This mandate has been variably implemented within and across states. Knowledge transfer is highlighted in this paper as a conceptual framework to understand mandated referral to EI services for young children with open child welfare cases. In-depth, semi-structured qualitative interviews and focus groups were conducted with child welfare workers, EI providers, and public health department officials. These data were used to examine barriers to and facilitators of referral and service use for this population. Specifically, provider perspectives were solicited on how organizational culture, structures and standard operating procedures, and resources can support the mandated referral process. Findings highlight the importance of facilitating knowledge transfer within and between human service organizations, a process that requires an understanding of the various attributes of each participating system. This paper contributes to current knowledge by considering both intra- and inter-system barriers to knowledge transfer, extending examinations of mandated referral to consider downstream service provision, and informing future actions taken to address the developmental needs of young children in child welfare.
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