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How do I find out if my child needs treatment?

Assessments are the first step to determining whether your child needs help, and if so what kind. The main purpose of an assessment is to get a clear picture of the needs that a child is having, the reasons for these needs, the strengths of the child and family and engage in a family-driven, youth-guided process to develop an individualized services plan. There are many kinds of assessments and sometimes a child might need several in order to figure out the best way to help. During the assessment process, parents and caregivers can ask about any specialized assessments that might be needed to understand their child’s and family’s situation and needs.

Assessments are the most useful when the person(s) doing them has all the information available about the child including health history, past treatment, family history, and current and past living arrangements. As a parent, the knowledge and ideas you bring about your child and family are key to ensuring that the provider understands your child and family. Sometimes parents and caregivers worry about being judged or that they are doing things wrong, but you are the expert about your child. Before an assessment, the office where it is scheduled should be able to tell you how long the appointment will last, what information to bring and may ask your permission to get records from other places. This will help you know what to expect and plan your time.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services works with providers in the community to make sure that children involved in child welfare services (that is, child protective services, foster care) can get the kinds of assessments they need. The first access point for an emotional or behavioral assessment is the child’s insurance (private or Medicaid). If an assessment is needed that can’t be paid for through insurance, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will work with the child’s Children’s Protective Services or foster care worker to schedule and pay for the assessment. Assessment is not a one-time activity. When children enter foster care there is usually an effort to make sure that assessments are done right away because these will be important to putting together an initial service plan. However, as children’s needs change over time, it is important to review how things are going and decide whether new assessments are needed.

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