The project aims to enhance the safety, permanency and wellbeing of children and youth in foster care, ages three to seventeen years, by facilitating effective linkages to appropriate and research-based mental health services (i.e., evidence-based practices; EBPs). The emphasis will be on areas of wellbeing and family functioning intrinsic to the achievement of safety and timely permanency for children placed out-of-home. While some children and youth currently in the foster care system and those who have been adopted experience mental health problems (including the emotional and behavioral consequences of trauma exposure) at higher rates than the general population, they are significantly less likely to be linked with EBPs. Left untreated or ineffectually treated, these emotional, behavioral, and functional problems may compromise case planning efforts, length to permanency, and adoption success. However, merely increasing the capacity to deliver EBPs is not sufficient to create a responsive system that ensures children and youth receive the intended services. Establishing an efficient cross-system infrastructure to bridge initial screening and ongoing functional assessments to needed EBPs is critical to effectively link children, youth and families to effective services.
Mental and behavioral disorders make up a growing percentage of the disease burden for children, youth, and adults in the United States. The project will incorporate mental and behavioral health into the framework of key child welfare outcomes; safety, permanency, and well-being. By improving the sensitivity and specificity of mental and behavioral health screening practices for children and youth entering foster care, as well as improving the effectiveness and efficiency of mental and behavioral health treatment, the project has the potential to enhance resilience and prevent thousands of children and youth in foster care from developing serious mental and behavioral health disorders that could affect them throughout their lives.