Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor

Renee Hepperlen


Social Work


Research into child protection has focused largely on evaluating the specific interventions that can improve outcomes for children who suffer neglect or abuse. Little is known about how the various elements of the child protection system interact to determine children’s permanency decisions and about the system’s overall strengths and weaknesses in improving outcomes for children. Guardian ad Litems are in a unique position to evaluate child protection because of their relative independence and because of their specific role of focusing on children’s best interests. This research was designed to identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats facing the child protection system in a large Midwestern metropolitan area. The researcher engaged six Guardian ad Litems in qualitative research. The Guardian ad Litems were broadly supportive of the child protection system that they served, believing both the cases brought to court and the ensuing parental case plans they experienced were appropriate. Overall, they experienced positive collaboration within the system and felt that correct decisions were made about the final placement of the children within the system. They believed that they were making a positive difference for children. The most consistent complaint about the system was about the caseloads and turnover of the county social workers. They identified the county social worker as the key factor affecting the successful progression of a case. The researcher perceived quite varying beliefs about what minimum parenting standards should be before a child should be returned home amongst the respondents she interviewed. Therefore, this researcher recommends evidence-based training for Guardian Ad Litems that focus on minimum standards to ensure consistency and best practice for children.

Included in

Social Work Commons