Young children — birth to age 5 — are the most likely to be involved in the child welfare system, but the least likely to receive the interventions they need to address the mental, emotional, behavioral and developmental issues they often exhibit as a result of abuse and neglect. This report examines the mental health needs of young children in the child welfare system and the barriers to accessing services to address these needs. Also included are recommendations for policymakers and providers in order to protect this vulnerable population.
Young children in the child welfare system are not getting the mental health care they need
Findings & Stats
Up to 42% of children in the child welfare system are under the age of 6 and in need of mental health intervention. Only 7% of children in this age group receive the services they need.
Inadequate Systematic Screening
While nearly all (94%) of child welfare agencies had policies to screen children for physical health issues, less than half (48%) had similar policies for mental health issues.
Statements & Quotations
Developmental research has shown that consistent, responsive and nurturing early relationships foster emotional well-being in young children, as well as create the foundation for the behavioral, social, and cognitive development essential for school readiness. Parents are one of the primary influences on a child’s healthy development. Given parents’ central role, it is not surprising that children’s experience of abuse and neglect especially in early childhood can pose major risks to their development.
Nowhere is the need for immediacy more acute and apparent than when it comes to young children who have experienced maltreatment or for whom there appears clear risks. The practice response and underlying policies must ensure quality. The existence of data that demonstrates the effectiveness of an intervention is crucial especially strategies that reflect the settings where young children frequent, with the types and levels of maltreatment young children in child welfare experience, and bound by the cultural, economic and social forces that shape their lives.
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