Effectiveness of child protection practice models: a systematic review

Nanne Isokuortti, Elina Aaltio, Taina Laajasalo, Jane Barlow

Research output: Contribution to journalReview Articlepeer-review


Background: Attempts to improve child protection outcomes by implementing social work practice models embedded in a particular theory and practice approach, have increased internationally over the past decade.

Objective: To assess the evidence of the effectiveness of child protection practice models in improving outcomes for children and families.

Participants and setting: Children <18 years and their families involved in child protection services.

Methods: A systematic review was conducted to synthesize evidence regarding the effectiveness of child protection practice models. Systematic searches across 10 electronic databases and grey literature were conducted to identify quasi-experimental studies minimally. Included studies were critically appraised and the findings summarized narratively.

Results: Five papers, representing six studies, focusing on three practice models (Solution-Based Casework; Signs of Safety; and Reclaiming Social Work) met the inclusion criteria. All studies applied a quasi-experimental design. Overall, the quality of the evidence was rated as being poor, with studies suffering from a risk of selection bias, small sample sizes and short-term follow up.

Conclusions: Despite the popularity of practice models, the evidence base for their effectiveness is still limited. The results suggest that high-quality studies are urgently needed to evaluate the impact of practice models in improving the outcomes of child-protection-involved families. The findings also illustrate the difficulties of conducting high-quality outcome evaluations in children's social care, and these challenges and future directions for research, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104632
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020
MoE publication typeA2 Review article in a scientific journal

Fields of Science

  • 5145 Social work
  • Child protection
  • Practice models
  • Social work
  • Systematic review
  • TIME
  • 515 Psychology

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