The fragmented nature of the U.S. mental health system with its primary focus on tertiary care has created serious gaps in mental health service provision and consequently a large percentage of children with mental health needs receive little, if any intervention in their schools or communities. (Anderson, Mohr, 2003).
The biggest problem in filling this need gap is identifying children with mental health problems, not just because of the persistence of the stigma attached to it, but also because children with mental health problems represent a diverse group and our current assessment technologies are limited in the information that they can provide. As a result outcomes for children with mental health problems have continued to remain poor in our society.
This makes it even more imperative for our society to formulate a comprehensive policy framework that would guarantee minimum basic care (ideally foster case in a home-like environment) to these children, if they cannot, for some reason stay with their families. Ultimately, such a policy framework must account for protective factors, risk factors, and interventions cutting across race and ethnic considerations.
Therefore the purposes of this paper is to:
Discuss some of the shortcomings in "traditional" approaches for assessing children with mental health challenges
Describe a policy framework that would adequately respond to these needs. My suggestion made in this paper is for the adoption of a market-oriented policy, under which state-run foster care programs are gradually all outsourced to private, interested parties in order to bring more efficiency and accountability into the system and, lastly
Draft a proposal for circulation among leading print media organizations that would raise people's awareness level on this sensitive subject.
But before we discuss the pitfalls with the present foster care system for mentally challenged children, we must first analyze the gravity of the problem.
Incidence of mental illness in children.
According to the latest estimates by the Surgeon General, 11 per cent of America's youth, aged 9-17, have a diagnosable mental or addictive disorder that causes significant impairment in their functioning (Dwyer, 2002; USDHHS, 1999). Researchers have estimated that the prevalence of emotional and behavioral challenges among children and youth probably falls between nine to 19 per cent (Friedman, Kutash, & Duchnowski, 1996), as defined under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Amendment of 1997 (IDEA, 20 U.S.C., 1997).
Deficiencies with the Present Systems of Assessment.
Identifying children with mental illness is by no means an easy task; first because of the stigma attached to the problem, which makes parents mask or deny their child's condition till so long as they can manage it; and second, because this group is diverse and presents a wide range of mental health needs that are not equally easy to diagnose (Phillips, Nelson, &...