Over the past few years, faculty and staff at the School of Government collaborated with public officials across the state to develop resources and tools related to the growth and development of adult protection multidisciplinary teams (MDTs). An adult protection MDT is a group of professionals in a geographic region who work together toward common goals related to preventing and responding to abuse, in any of its forms (physical, emotional, and sexual abuse; self-neglect and caretaker neglect; and exploitation, including financial exploitation).
One study noted that “efforts to disseminate innovations like MDTs” in the field of adult protective services “should recognize the need for ongoing support to ensure” that those efforts actually result in changes in the field.[i] To that end, the SOG launched a Help Desk to support the work of adult protection MDTs in North Carolina.
Our project funding originally focused on elder abuse and older adults. Over time, we responded to the emerging needs and vocabulary of the field; expanded the resources, training, and support available; and recently rebranded the our work as the Adult Protection Network to include other adult populations in need of protection. At any time, an adult may be “in need of protection” and may look to law enforcement officials, health care providers, family, and others for assistance. In the context of our work, we may refer to adults in a variety of circumstances, including
- Disabled adults: Many adults, both old and young, have disabilities. Some adults with a disability may need to be protected from potential abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Under North Carolina law, social services agencies are responsible for implementing a program referred to as “adult protective services” or APS. This governmental authority extends only to those who are “disabled,” as that term is defined in state law.
- Older adults: Initial funding for our work came from grant funding focused on elder abuse. As a result, many materials refer to “older adults.” Interestingly, some North Carolina laws extend protection to adults over 60 while others focus on adults over 65.
- Person under guardianship (or “incompetent adult”): If a clerk of superior court determines that an adult is incompetent in a judicial proceeding, the clerk will appoint someone to serve as that individual’s guardian. This appointed guardian, with the oversight of the court system, will be able to provide some protection to an adult.
- Victims: If an adult has been abused, neglected, or exploited, we may refer to the adult as a victim regardless of whether the perpetrator is charged with a crime
- Vulnerable adults: This is an umbrella term that is sometimes used to describe adults in all the above circumstances if those adults are “in need of protection” as well.
Funding from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Division of Aging and Adult Services enables us to expand this work to focus on all of these adult populations.
This funding allows us to work in both training and support. We will expand the training resources by developing a curriculum to support communities who are at various stages of development of an MDT. That new, dynamic curriculum will launch in 2023.
We now offer support through the Help Desk for North Carolina adult protection MDTs. The purpose of the Help Desk is to create a space where all members of the adult protection community can access information and direct questions related to establishing and maintaining strong MDTs, which are in various stages of development across the state. Some counties have fully functioning MDTs. Some counties want to re-invigorate their efforts, and others are just beginning to organize. The Help Desk is here for all of you – all counties and all MDT members. You can reach out to the Help Desk by phone or email to schedule a consultation and learn about the options available to support your community in this work.
As a reminder, the Adult Protection Network website hosts useful on-demand resources. These include a manual that provides an overview of the legal framework for adult protection in North Carolina, an interactive roadmap that illustrates some of the connections and workflows that can exist in North Carolina’s adult protection system, and a variety of other tools, quick reference guides, and flow charts intended to support public officials doing this work. The site also hosts a training library that contains free, on demand videos and interactive tools on multidisciplinary teams (MDTs) and adult protection and a map and directory of communities and professionals working in the field of aging and adult services in North Carolina.
The Adult Protection Network Director, Kristy Preston, serves as the primary point of contact for the Help Desk. You can meet Kristy (virtually) and learn more about the Help Desk by watching this video. We hope you will reach out to explore how we can support you in this important work.
[i] Kenneth J. Steinman & Georgia J. Anetzberger (2022) Measuring the diverse characteristics of county adult protective services programs, Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 34:3, 168, DOI: 10.1080/08946566.2022.2092243, available online at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/08946566.2022.2092243?needAccess=true