Interagency collaboration: Part B. Does collaboration benefit children and families? Exploring the evidence

Interagency collaboration: Part B. Does collaboration benefit children and families? Exploring the evidence

Myfanwy McDonald and Kate Rosier

AFRC Briefing No. 21 — October 2011

Key messages

Although research has demonstrated that interagency collaboration benefits the professionals and agencies involved (e.g., increased skills and knowledge) there is limited empirical evidence to clearly demonstrate that collaboration does lead to improved outcomes for service users.

Research that seeks to determine whether interagency collaboration leads to improved client outcomes has a noticeable geographic (i.e., United States and UK based research) and contextual bias (i.e., child protection (US) or health (UK)).

The success of collaboration is highly dependent upon context—the quality of the relationship between the agencies, the sectors involve (e.g., child welfare, mental health, child health) and the strategies utilised by the agencies.

Collaboration is most effective for children with multiple and complex needs, however there is some evidence to suggest that collaboration may have a negative impact on those children whose needs are not as complex.

The stronger the ties between agencies, the more likely families from some CALD backgrounds are to use services. In Australia, there is some evidence of a link between interagency collaboration and increased Indigenous engagement in antenatal services.

Briefing Paper 21 comprises two papers that focus attention upon how interagency collaborations benefit children and families.1 Part A looks at what collaboration is, the benefits and risks of involving families in collaborations, when interagency collaborations are likely to be most effective and explores how they can be supported through specific models of governance. Part B investigates the evidence regarding the relationship between collaboration and improved outcomes for children and families.


In this paper collaboration is defined as a: “means of producing something joined and new, from the interactions of people or organisations, their knowledge and resources” (ARACY, 2009). This paper focuses upon service level collaboration (rather than policy or research collaboration) amongst agencies (rather than intra-agency and interpersonal collaboration).


1 Information on practical strategies to establishing interagency collaboration can be found on the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) website <>

Authors and Acknowledgements

At the time of writing Myfanwy McDonald was the Coordinator of the Communities and Families Clearinghouse Australia.

Kate Rosier is a Research Officer in the Communities and Families Clearinghouse Australia.

Special thanks for Jennifer Pidgeon (ARACY), Sharnee Moore and Elly Robinson for ideas, comments and suggestions.

Publication details

AFRC Briefing
No. 21
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, October 2011.
Last updated June 2013
12 pp.

Publication meta

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