“What happened to this child?”

‘Systems work best when individuals stop asking “What’s wrong with this child?” and start asking “What happened to this child?”’ 

That’s the message from U.S. recent research on the need for a holistic response to young people’s complex needs -one we wholeheartedly agree with.

Too often, the behavioural health needs of youth go unidentified and unaddressed, despite their high prevalence in juvenile justice, child welfare and special education settings, a study conducted by the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice reported.

The report found that young people with disabilities, including mental health and substance use conditions, are among those who are much more likely to come into contact with the juvenile justice system.

An article on the topic notes: “That being the case, one might expect to see extensive nationwide efforts to create a seamless array of services across child-serving systems. Unfortunately, systems for addressing the needs of youth are often built within, not across, these systems, resulting in what many refer to as “silos” or “fragmentation.”

The great challenge, as Jeffrey J. Vanderploeg, Ph.D., is vice president for mental health initiatives at the Child Health and Development Institute, points out is getting all child-serving systems — behavioural health, juvenile justice, education, child welfare and others — to truly partner with one another in a way that more efficiently addresses the needs of at-risk youth.



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