LJWorld.com weblogs Notes from John
The mental health needs of foster children.
46% to 49% of Kansas children entering foster care are receiving mental health services within six months. This eventually became 56%. This is according to a study done at the University of Kansas by Terry Moore and Becci Akin (http://www.socwel.ku.edu/occ/viewProject.asp?ID=75).These findings are consistent with national studies (i.e. Leslie, Hurlburt, James, Landsverk, Slymen & Zhang, 2005). It is not surprising that foster children need mental health services given that they enter care from a variety of troubled backgrounds including child abuse, neglect and their own troubling behavior which may be early onset of serious mental illness. Let’s hope that this is not an area for budget cuts in these dismal fiscal times. Our foster parents need all of the help that they can get in parenting our children. Another finding is that it is about 40 days on average from entry into foster care and first mental health contact. This is a concern given that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends mental health screening for all children entering foster care within 24 hours and a comprehensive assessment within 30 days. Children entering care may not be screened for mental health needs using the best instrument. The report found that if a child under the age of 6 enters care and is screened for mental health needs, they are screened by a well regarded instrument. However this is not true for children over that age of 5.Finally (only in terms of this entry, the report’s 145 pages contains lots more information) 75% of foster children receiving mental health services are receiving only 1 or 2 different services. This is distressing given that one of the two services is assessment. More distressing is that only 5% of these services are family based. Most Kansas foster children need mental health services. However, it takes 40 days to get the process started. If the child is over the age of 5 the screening instrument may not be the best. The services provided may not go beyond a mental health assessment and only 5% of services are family based. So foster parents are not receiving the help they need to care for our children where it will do the most good, in the foster home. Certainly we can do better than this.