What is a multidisciplinary team?
Multidisciplinary teams are groups of professionals from diverse disciplines who come together to provide comprehensive assessment and consultation in abuse cases. While their primary purpose is typically to help team members resolve difficult cases, teams may fulfill a variety of additional functions. They can promote coordination between agencies; provide a "checks and balances" mechanism to ensure that the interests and rights of all concerned parties are addressed; and identify service gaps and breakdowns in coordination or communication between agencies or individuals. They also enhance the professional skills and knowledge of individual team members by providing a forum for learning more about the strategies, resources, and approaches used by various disciplines.
Who serves on teams?
Professional disciplines that are typically represented on elder abuse teams include adult protective services, the civil and criminal justice systems, health and social services, and mental health. Some teams include domestic violence advocates, substance abuse specialists, clergy, and policy-makers. Financial abuse specialist teams, or FASTs, focus on cases involving exploitation and include representatives from financial institutions, including banks or credit unions, stock brokerage firms, mortgage lenders, private trustees or guardians, and others (see information on FASTs in the Technical Assistance Toolbox).
How do teams work?
Teams are as diverse as the communities in which they reside. Although the criteria used to select cases to review varies from team to team, most review cases in which prior interventions have proven unsuccessful as well as cases in which multiple agencies are involved and there is a lack of clarity regarding each agency's role. Some discuss "success stories" to demonstrate effective techniques or interventions. By discussing "real life" situations, teams are also likely to identify systemic problems that can be addressed through advocacy, training, or coordination. Some teams address these issues themselves while others refer them on to other appropriate agencies, committees, or individuals for follow-up.
Teams also vary in their level of formality. Some have handbooks, "job descriptions" for members, membership agreements, and guidelines for presenting cases. Many find it helpful to distribute minutes summarizing case discussions and clarifying what has been decided. Some make it a point to follow up on all cases that are discussed so that team members receive feedback on outcomes.
How can I learn more?
Examples of membership agreements, guidelines, and more are available in the technical assistance toolbox.