One way professionals in various disciplines can collaborate to help and support adults in their communities who may need protection from abuse, neglect, and exploitation is through the formation of multidisciplinary teams (MDTs). An MDT is a group of professionals in a geographic region who commit to working together toward a common goal. An adult protection MDT works to find ways to prevent and respond to abuse, including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse; self-neglect and caretaker neglect; and exploitation, including financial exploitation.
Adult protection MDTs have gained traction because adult abuse, neglect, and exploitation is a complex problem that is difficult to detect, prevent, and remedy. Adults may be ashamed of being a victim, lack mental capacity, or have an ongoing dependency on an abuser for care or financial support. Adult abuse, neglect, and exploitation may occur in a variety of settings, from private residences to adult care homes. The perpetrators range from family members to caregivers to strangers. There is no one field, system, or set of laws that controls the problem; a single profession or service system is rarely, alone, enough to address it. It occurs across disciplines and implicates areas such as physical health, mental health, financial matters, residential care, law, domestic violence, and social work.
For example, Adult Protective Services (APS) may intervene to provide protective services to a disabled adult and resolve the crisis for that particular adult. APS does not have authority to prosecute the perpetrator of the abuse and, therefore, the perpetrator is able to simply move on to another victim. Or, an adult who is the victim of abuse and lacks capacity is unable to consent to protective services offered by APS. APS then seeks a court-appointed guardian to make decisions the adult is unable to make that will protect the adult from abuse. APS then works with the court appointed guardian to ensure protective action is taken on behalf of the adult.
Some jurisdictions are mandated by law to establish MDTs or protocols for collaboration. Other states expressly authorize public officials to coordinate and provide a collaborative response to abuse, neglect, and exploitation cases, addressing issues such as information-sharing and confidentiality. The National Adult Protective Services Association’s Recommended Minimum Program Standards encourage APS systems to form intentional and specific collaborations in order “to provide comprehensive services to alleged victims by building on the strengths, and compensating for the weaknesses, of the service delivery system available in the community, and by avoiding working at cross-purposes.” The U.S. Department of Justice has published an MDT Guide and Toolkit to encourage and facilitate the development of MDTs.
North Carolina does not have specific laws that address adult protection MDTs. While they are not specifically required or authorized by statute, they are also not prohibited or discouraged.
Want to learn more about MDTs?
Read more in Chapter 1 of the Legal Framework for North Carolina’s Elder Protection System or view a map of existing MDTs in North Carolina.