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September 2003Vol. 4, No. 7Linking Child Welfare and Behavioral Health Services

As managed care becomes a reality for behavioral health services in more communities, child welfare professionals need information to help them continue to meet the mental health and substance abuse treatment needs of the children they serve. As part of the Promising Approaches for Behavioral Health Series, Georgetown University published two new papers specific to child welfare issues. Though developed primarily for behavioral health professionals, the papers provide valuable insight for child welfare professionals working with managed care systems.

The first paper, A View from the Child Welfare System (, details information to consider when designing a public behavioral health managed care system to meet the needs of children and families in the child welfare system. Along with the necessary components of any public behavioral health system (e.g., access to services, coordination of care), child welfare professionals will learn how four communities designed programs and services specifically for children involved in the child welfare system. In addition, the paper discusses some of the decisions States and communities will need to make about how the child welfare and behavioral health systems will work together.

A companion paper, Making Interagency Initiatives Work for Children and Families in the Child Welfare System (, describes the basis for collaborative efforts on the part of behavioral health, child welfare, and other agencies to provide services to children with behavioral health needs.

Through detailed descriptions of interagency initiatives in New Jersey, Indiana, and Massachusetts, the paper offers practical tips, such as:

  • How interagency initiatives are structured and administered
  • How issues and problems are addressed
  • How successful partnerships with families are developed
  • How initiatives are funded by each partner
  • How children and their families are enrolled in services
  • How services are coordinated
  • How partners share information
  • How interagency initiatives affect the participating partners, as well as the families they serve

Similarities, differences, and challenges of the three initiatives are also discussed. In addition, participants offer lessons learned and recommendations for States and communities interested in developing their own interagency initiatives.

Information for these papers is drawn from the Health Care Reform Tracking Project, an ongoing study of managed care and children's issues based at the Department of Child and Family Studies, Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, University of South Florida.

Hard copies of both reports can be obtained from:

Mary Moreland
Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development
3307 M Street, NW, Suite 401
Washington DC 20007
Phone: (202) 687-5000

Related Item

A recent study from the Center for Health Care Strategies explores the issue of coordination between privatized child welfare initiatives and Medicaid managed care systems for the delivery of behavioral health services for children and families in the child welfare system. Find the study on the Center for Health Care Strategies website at