Mental health oversight for children and adolescents in child welfare custody

Thomas I. Mackie, Christina M. Mulé, Justeen Hyde, Laurel K. Leslie

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


Since 1997, child welfare agencies have been increasingly held accountable by Federal and State policies to ensure the mental health needs of children in their care are met. Federal legislation, the Adoptions and Safe Families Act of 1997, extended the purview of state child welfare agencies from ensuring the safety and permanency of children to also include well-being, referring to their physical, mental, developmental, and dental health, particularly those children legally removed from the care of their parents, either temporarily or permanently (hereafter, "children in welfare custody"). Recent Federal legislation, the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 and the Child and Family Services Innovation Act of 2011, reflect this increased commitment by mandating that state child welfare agencies develop a plan for oversight of mental health services, including mental health evaluation, appropriate psychotropic medication use, and responses to address the trauma experienced by children in child welfare custody. This chapter will describe the level of mental health need among children involved in the child welfare/child protective services (CW/CPS) system, with a particular focus on those children removed from their home of origin and placed in child welfare custody; provide a brief legislative history of how 'well-being,' specifically mental health, fell under the purview of child welfare agencies; propose a model specifying components of and organizational resources for a mental health oversight system; and, for each component/resource, delineate the challenges confronted by state child welfare agencies, their responses, and the practice implications. We draw on considerable research conducted on the mental health needs and service use of children in child welfare custody, as well as interviews recently conducted with key informants from child welfare agencies in 48 States and the District of Columbia, from March 2009 until January 2010. The chapter will conclude by discussing the organizational resources that assist child welfare agencies in ensuring mental health oversight in both policy and practice. Themes will include the importance of mental health expertise and on-going training and collaboration with other state child-serving systems (specifically, State Medicaid agencies as the primary payer of mental health services and m ental health authorities as the primary provider of mental health services). Children in child welfare custody need and deserve the best mental health services that a state can provide. Strong committed leadership from child welfare agencies, alongside stakeholder collaborations, will be critical to meeting the significant need of children in their care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationChild Welfare
Subtitle of host publicationCurrent Issues, Practices and Challenges
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages36
ISBN (Print)9781622578269
StatePublished - Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)


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