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July/August 2006Vol. 7, No. 6Systems of Care for the Most Vulnerable Families

The rise in the number of children and youth in need of behavioral health (mental health or substance abuse) services requires greater coordination among behavioral health systems and the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. A series of summits by the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation examined how a systems of care approach could improve the quality of care for these vulnerable children and their families. Two hundred policymakers, government officials, agency personnel, researchers, and consumers attended the summits to exchange ideas about the potential of systems of care. Two resulting monographs outline the problems faced by the behavioral health, child welfare, and juvenile justice systems and the ways that collaboration and integration among the systems can improve outcomes for children and families.

  • The first monograph, Improving Quality of Care for the Most Vulnerable Children, Youth, and Families: Finding Consensus, looks at the barriers facing these systems, specifically examining the intersection of the child welfare and substance abuse systems and the unmet needs of mentally ill youth in the juvenile justice system.

  • The second monograph, Integrating Systems of Care: Improving Quality of Care for the Most Vulnerable Children and Families, outlines a plan for systems-culture change across the different systems and identifies the steps needed to implement this approach at the national, State, and local levels. Throughout this monograph, examples illustrate the benefits of collaboration among systems. Additional information is found in the appendixes, which cover such topics as mobilizing communities, evidence-based practice, and social marketing.