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Home > Practice Areas > Child Mental Health > Critical Issues

 
 

AACAP/CWLA Foster Care Mental Health Collaborative

In a collaborative effort, CWLA and the America Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) have established a work group to address mental health needs of children known to the child welfare system. Initial efforts have focused children in the foster care system, as this is the group with the greatest need. More than 70 individuals and national organizations involved with children and their families--including youth and family members themselves--have joined this colloaboration. All are committed to improving outcomes for children and families.

The work group has created subcommittees that have focused on two key areas: values and principles, and assessment.

In 2002, the collaborative issued AACAP/CWLA Values and Principles for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and Supports for Children in Foster Care. The five values call for
  • child-focused mental health and substance abuse services and supports;

  • family-driven mental health and substance abuse services and supports;

  • integration, collaboration, and coordination of community-based mental health and substance abuse services and supports with the foster care system

  • culturally competent, relevant, and strength-based services and supports provided by knowledgable, skilled service providers who understand the cultural diversity of the community; and

  • timely, effective, evidence-based, outcome-driven mental health and substance abuse services and supports.
The values and principles are meant to guide efforts to improve policies and practices in the systems that serve children in foster care and their families. The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges endorsed the collaborative's values and principles in 2003.

The collaborative has also authored numerous policy statements. The AACAP/CWLA Policy Statement on Mental Health and Use of Alcohol and Drugs, Screening and Assessment of Children in Foster Care (Microsoft Word file) concludes that foster children must receive an immediate screening for mental health needs and use of alcohol and other drugs (AOD), followed by a comprehensive assessment for mental health and AOD use, and periodic reassessments.

The Policy Statement on the Mental Health Needs of Infants and Toddlers in Foster Care (Microsoft Word file) outlines strategies to help policymakers; health, mental health, and child welfare professionals; and lawyers and judges work together to ensure the healthy physical, social, and emotional development of infants and toddlers in foster care.

Since 2001, CWLA and AACAP have also cosponsored four one-day conferences to improve mental health and substance abuse services and supports for children in foster care and their families. A variety of experts have presented on the mental health issues affecting children in foster care, focusing on best practices for improving service delivery.

In 2002, the collaborative issued legislative and policy reform recommendations (Microsoft Word file) urging legislation to better ensure effective mental health care, early intervention services to prevent mental health problems, and substance abuse services and supports for children in foster care.

The collaborative is also finalizing an assessment tool kit featuring
  • a first-responder screening checklist for emergency or urgent mental health and AOD consultation or referral, and

  • practitioner guidelines for the comprehensive assessemt of mental health and AOD needs of children and adolescents entering the foster care system.
As these products are completed, we are creating a research agenda that focuses on best practices and outcomes related to providing mental health and substance abuse services and supports to children and their families in the foster care system.

Once these are done, we are planning to develop guidelines for foster parents on addressing the mental health and substance abuse needs of the children and families they are involved with.

For more information about the AACAP Initiative, click here.


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