Where can I learn more about the role of mental health screening, assessment and treatment for children served by child welfare?

Children who come into protective services and foster care are at a higher risk for both health and mental health problems than are children in the community. There are several reasons for this including exposure to trauma, lack of access to health and mental health services when problems were mild, possibility of exposures to drugs and alcohol or maternal stress prior to birth, or family history of mental health problems. Recognizing and addressing mental health problems that a child has is important to the child’s well-being, safety and permanency.

Child welfare and Medicaid policy mandates that children get a comprehensive medical examination within 30 days of entry into foster care so that health and mental health problems can get recognized and addressed as soon as possible.

When children first come into care it is important to find out if they have ongoing health and mental health problems and to make sure that new medical providers get information about past services from previous providers. At the time of foster care placement, legal parents are required by law to provide the names and contact information for all the health and mental health providers who have been working with their child. The best way to get accurate health and mental health information for the child is to request records from prior providers. For this, parents should be encouraged to sign a completed DHS-1555 Authorization to Release Confidential Information form for each provider. These forms can be sent to the providers so that they will be able to release medical and mental health records to providers who are new to the child and family.

There are many resources to learn more about these mental health needs. See links to some useful sites below.