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David Baxter

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Parents send kids to foster care for mental health services
November 29, 2004

RICHMOND, Va. (Associated Press) -- A new study shows that thousands of Virginia parents have placed their children in foster care because they want their kids to get mental-health services.

The report shows that nearly a quarter of the children appeared to be in custody to obtain treatment for illnesses such as severe depression and bipolar disorder.

Private insurers and H-M-Os do NOT cover all of the costs of caring for these illnesses. And in many cases, the families make too much money to be eligible for Medicaid.

The General Assembly commissioned the study.

The report's recommendations to the legislature include increasing funding for mental health services for children. They also include helping families access private insurance for mental health services.

State lawmakers who have studied the issue say they will push for an immediate infusion of funding for the Comprehensive Services Act, which spent 236 (m) million dollars last year for mental health services.

=====

See also this thread on the closing of mental health facilities and the incarceration of mentally ill patients in prisons.
 

Daniel

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I must say it's rather shocking.

State and local officials have known about the problem for years, but the report is the first time Virginia has tried to determine its extent. In the 2004 legislative session, lawmakers passed a resolution impelling state officials to study the issue. A work group was established, and it met seven times during the summer and fall.

The report, published this month, is based on an analysis of the Department of Social Services database, which offers partial information on how children come into foster care. It found that of the 8,702 children in foster care as of June 1, "2,008 . . . appear to be in custody to obtain treatment."

Last year, the federal government found that at least 12,700 children were placed in foster care or juvenile jails only because they needed mental health treatment. The study called it a significant problem in every state.

A bill before Congress, known as the Family Opportunity Act, would let families of disabled children purchase coverage under the Medicaid program.

...

Parents who have placed young people in foster care said it was the only alternative after years of arrests, psychiatric ward visits and violent behavior by their children.

"We tried so much, but there seemed like there was nothing out there for him," said Fairfax County resident Marnie Merriam, mother of a 16-year-old with bipolar disorder. She said her son, Anthony, had started to lash out at her younger children, in one instance needing the police to calm him. "Giving him to the system was really the last thing I ever wanted to do.

"But it came to this, and it robs you of the natural feelings of being a parent," she said. "Almost like you're giving up. . . . But I knew it was for the best."

--exceprts from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A18686-2004Nov28.html
 

Ash

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It's very sad. I have talked with parents who had, what they felt to be, no other choice but to give up their kids.
 

David Baxter

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Good grief: "It found that of the 8,702 children in foster care as of June 1, 2,008 . . . appear to be in custody to obtain treatment."

Even if you are a politician looking at nothing except short term bottom line dollar values, how can it be cost effective to have 25% of the children in care being there unnecessrily so they can obtain treatment? Not to mention the long term mental health issues for those children and their families -- abandonment issues, attachment disorders, depression, etc., etc.
 

HA

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This is just terrible. I believe it has been a problem for quite some time in the US. I have also heard of couples getting divorced in order for the ill partner to qualify for medical care that would otherwise be impossible.

Where children and mental health are concerned, it is also a problem in Canada. I know a couple who had two adopted children and the daughter developed some serious mental health problems at the age of 12. At 15 they had to place her under foster care in order to get long term treatment. So hard for this family.
 

hkfiesta

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but what do you guys think should/could be done?
does foster care really help these children and give them the neccassary environment under their mental condition?
i thought people benefit best from support of close ones. would this separation perhaps cause people to retract more into their shell?
 

Ash

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There are a few issues here.

1) Some families simply can't afford the medical bills involved with helping their children. It's a sorry state of affairs but it's typical when you're dealing with insurance companies. They seem to pay out as little as possible.

2) Some family can't handle the aggression, etc, that come with children who aren't responding to treatment. The child might be extremely violent or end up in jail too often and the parents are left feeling as if there's nothing else they can do.

Those are the two big ones that I have heard about when it comes to placing children with chemical imbalances in foster care. In fact, my friend as a teenager was placed in foster care because her parents couldn't handle her acting out and getting in trouble.
 

HA

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hkfiesta said:
but what do you guys think should/could be done?
does foster care really help these children and give them the neccassary environment under their mental condition?
i thought people benefit best from support of close ones. would this separation perhaps cause people to retract more into their shell?

Hello hkfiesta,

I would think that this approach of giving sole custody to the state would have more negative effects on the young person. Family involvement in treatment decisions would be an important part of keeping them close and allowing the family to support their loved one.

I'm sure the families try very hard to be involved but the child is then part of the *system* and it is not set up to deal with these circumstances. In the ideal situations the custody is just paper work and everyone involved would carry on like it is just treatment. However it works out, it would still be better than no treatment. Mental health is just as critical as physical health and can be life threatening in many cases.


The young person in the family I spoke about was not just placed into a *family* home but a treatment home with professional staff and care which would be accessed by the foster care system only. They visit, have her home and love her just the same but she did need more than a few months of treatment.

I have no idea what happens in other situations or the USA. I'm sure families find it too difficult to openly discuss so you only hear about it when and if it gets into the media.

What should be done?

If many people get together and campaign about the situation then the gov't may listen and put treatment programs in place to meet the needs of children and adolescents. NAMI has a strong campaign going about this issue so joining this organiztion and helping with this would be the best thing to do.
 

dmcgill

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If many people get together and campaign about the situation then the gov't may listen and put treatment programs in place to meet the needs of children and adolescents. NAMI has a strong campaign going about this issue so joining this organiztion and helping with this would be the best thing to do

This may work and with enough people making a loud noise, the governments would have to take a look. Foster homes are definatly not the best and the government, whither in the States or Canada makes for a very poor parent.

What really sickens me is here in Canada, to get mental health services and treatment, many times a young person needs to break the law and end up in the legal system mandated by the courts. Sad to say, the best services around for young and old persons alike is within the corrections system. What a sad state of affairs.
 

David Baxter

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Dennis said:
Sad to say, the best services around for young and old persons alike is within the corrections system.
Sad indeed because what's available for youth in the justice system is pretty limited and stretched very thin. If that's the best available for our kids, god help us all.
 

dmcgill

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Well David, as we have spoken about before, just try and make a referral to a youth mental health treatment of any kind. I have a young person, (11 yrs old) who has displayed some very serious problems that are directly related to an un-diagnosed mental health disorder. I can't do a thing for him except see him 2 times a week and be his friend. He needs professional help that can only be received when he turns 15. I have come to the point of almost hoping that when he is 12 and the courts can deal with some of his illeagle activities they will place him in one of these facilities right away rather than placing him in the revolving door of our youth probation system.
 

David Baxter

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Yes. I'm involved in a couple of those now too but in one of them getting caught up in the young offender system has made her worse, not better.

It's a sad world when kids in the critical late pre-adolescent and adolescent phases of their lives fall through the cracks, because it means that some of them who could have been rather easily turned on to a new path may be lost for years.
 

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