Systems of Care: Children and Adolescents With Serious Emotional Disturbances
Today, at least one in five American children and adolescents may have a behavioral, emotional, or mental health problem. At least 1 in 10, or as many as 6 million, young people may have a serious emotional disturbance that severely disrupts his or her ability to interact effectively at home, at school, and in the community.1
These children live in the cities, suburbs, and rural areas of our country. They come from wealthy, middle-class, and poor families and from every race and culture. But no matter what their backgrounds are, children with serious emotional disturbances and their families often do not receive the services and support they need to help them with their problems. For more information on child and adolescent mental health, call 1-800-789-2647.
What are "systems of care"?
A system of care is a wide range of mental health and related services and supports organized to work together to provide care. It is designed to help children or adolescents with serious emotional disturbances get the services they need in or near their home and community. Youth service plans are driven by their families.
In systems of care, local public and private organizations work in teams to plan and implement a tailored set of services for each individual child's physical, emotional, social, educational, and family needs. Teams include family advocates and may be comprised of representatives from mental health, health, education, child welfare, juvenile justice, vocational counseling, recreation, substance abuse, or other organizations (see following graphic on "Components of Systems of Care"). Teams find and build upon the strengths of a child and his or her family, rather than focusing solely on their problems. Teams work with individual families, including the children, and with other caregivers as partners when developing a plan for the child and when making decisions that affect the child's care.
Why are "systems of care" needed?
A serious emotional disturbance touches every part of a child's life. Therefore, children and adolescents with serious emotional disturbances and their families need many kinds of services from a variety of sources, such as schools, community mental health centers, and social service organizations.
Unfortunately, many State and community organizations do not work together to coordinate the services that children with serious emotional disturbances and their families need. For example, while children might be attending special education classes at school, they may not have access to after-school or recreation programs. Families might not receive the support they need to care for their children. To get needed services, some families have to give up custody or agree to place their children in a hospital or residential treatment center.
Today, with a much better understanding of serious emotional disturbances, many mental health providers know that children and their families can receive effective, accessible treatment and support through community-based systems of care.
Components of Systems of Care
(see list of specific services below)
"Cultural competence" is an important goal in systems of care. It means that each provider organization must show respect for, and respond to, individual differences and special needs. Services must be provided in the appropriate cultural context and without discrimination related to race, national origin, income level, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, or physical disability, to name a few. Culturally competent caregivers are aware of the impact of their own culture on their relationships with consumers and know about and respect cultural and ethnic differences. They adapt their skills to meet each family's values and customs. For more information on cultural competence, call 1-800-789-2647.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Mental Health Information Center.
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