Supporting the Adult Protective Services Workforce

An estimated one in ten adults over the age of 60 is a victim of physical, sexual, or psychological abuse or financial exploitation, or suffers from neglect or abandonment. As the number of older adults in the US dramatically increases in size over the next two decades, it is anticipated that the incidence of elder abuse will become more prevalent. A critical component to addressing this important public health issue is the network of local and state agencies that comprise the country’s system of community adult protective services (APS) and its workforce. APS investigations entail a complex scope of work that requires assessment of social, behavioral, and medical issues, as well as legal issues having to do with self-determination and possible criminality.

This issue brief summarizes key issues affecting the APS workforce and their policy implications as described in the current academic literature, publications produced by stakeholder organizations, and selected key informant interviews with representatives of those organizations, including:

  • Education and training
  • The use of interdisciplinary teams
  • Federal funding and administration
  • Workforce turnover
     

Key Questions

What competency areas should be the focus of APS education and training?
What concerns do field experts have regarding the future of the workforce?
 

Report

Authors Timothy Bates, MPP and Susan Chapman, RN, PhD of the UCSF Health Workforce Research Center on Long-Term Care have published their report, Supporting the Adult Protective Services Workforce.

Abstract

Author(s): Tim Bates, MPP and Susan A. Chapman, PhD, RN

Issue: An estimated one in ten adults over the age of 60 suffers some form of elder abuse. A key component of addressing ongoing elder abuse and the likelihood that its prevalence will increase as a result of a rapidly growing older adult population is the network of local and state agencies that form the country’s system of community adult protective services (APS). Support for this workforce should be a public health priority.

Methods: The information presented in this brief is derived from a combination of sources, including academic literature, publications produced by stakeholder organizations, and selected key informant interviews with representatives of those organizations.

Findings: APS investigations entail a complex scope of work that requires assessment of social, behavioral, and medical issues, as well as legal issues having to do with self-determination and possible criminality. The educational preparation, as well as post-employment training opportunities for frontline APS social workers are highly variable. Inter-agency coordination and interdisciplinary teams play a critical role in APS, but frontline workers’ access to expert consultation may be limited, depending on local conditions. Dedicated funding to support APS is lacking, and this contributes to high rates of staff turnover and inefficient services delivery. Despite limited resource, local APS networks are consistently engaged in innovative efforts to reimagine and redesign service delivery to improve effectiveness.

Discussion: APS should be promoted as a meta-discipline, practiced not just by social services and law enforcement professionals, but healthcare providers, caregivers, and all who routinely have professional contact with older adults. Grant funding is needed to develop telemedicine-like systems that APS social workers could utilize to access expert consultation not available in their local networks. Federal monies could be used to incentivize bachelor’s and master’s social work program graduates to pursue careers in APS, similar to how Title IV-E funds are used to support child welfare social work. APS has limited visibility within the health services research and workforce training agenda. There is a need for high quality research examining issues including the effectiveness of different intervention models, best practices in the use of interdisciplinary teams, and improving data collection and dissemination methods. Key Words:Adult protective services; elder abuse; aging population; population health; workforce development; education and training

For questions, contact: Timothy Bates, [email protected]