How can I make sure my voice is heard about my health and mental health?
If you are a child or adolescent in foster care, you have a right to be part of the team working on your health and mental health. Your ideas about what is going well, how you are feeling and where you need help are an important part of figuring out what kinds of support you need. Sometimes you may not think you need supports or agree with your treatment plan. If so, it’s fine to ask your treatment team questions so you can understand your plan and discuss possible changes to it.
If you are having thoughts and feelings that make you scared you might do something to hurt yourself or anyone else, tell an adult right away. If they don’t get you help right away, call 911 for help.
Most of the time, the adults in your life (parents, foster parents, relatives, case worker, teachers, counselors, doctors) will want to hear about your feelings, thoughts and ideas about your care. If you are younger than 14 and don’t feel the adults around you are listening to your concerns, try talking with some other adult who is on your team. If you are 14 or older, you can call your local Community Mental Health center to get help. A minor 14 and older can get an emergency appointment, an appointment for screening to see if they can get services through Community Mental Health, an assessment and up to 12 outpatient appointments without a parent’s consent. For other services a parent or guardian has to be involved. A link to find the center in your area is below.
- Alphabetical list of local Community Mental Health Centers in Michigan
- Map by county of Community Mental Health Centers in Michigan
When you meet with the doctor or with a counselor, most often you will have an opportunity to meet with him or her by yourself. If you do not get invited to talk to the doctor or counselor alone, it is OK to ask for time alone if there is something you need to talk about and don’t want to do it in front of the adults who come with you to an appointment. Most of the time, anything you say during that time will stay between you and the doctor or counselor. If the doctor or counselor is worried that you won’t be safe, the two of you will need to figure out how to get the right adult involved to ensure you get the help you need. Also, doctors and counselors will need to call protective services if they are worried that someone is hurting you. These rules are in place to make sure that you are safe.
If you are getting near to 18 years old, it is important to figure out if your health and mental health services will need to change after your birthday and how to help this go smoothly. It will also be important to make sure you have information about your health and mental health history because you will probably have to switch to new providers and having this information will help them do the best job working with you.
- Foster Youth in Transition
- Finding Support: Teens and Young Adults
- Association for Children’s Mental Health
You also have the right to know about medications a doctor may want you to take. The first place to go to get questions answered is the doctor. If you want to look things up on your own, it is important to remember that not all information on the internet is correct. Here are good sources for reliable health information:
- Making Healthy Choices: A Guide on Psychotropic Medications for Youth in Foster Care
- Mental Health Medications: National Institute of Mental Health
- Fostering Success Michigan: Resources and inspiration for youth
For more information about your rights as a child in foster care, see the following: