Unintended implications of child welfare reform for texas foster children s mental health
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Unintended Implications of Child Welfare Reform for Texas Foster Children’s Mental Health. Kelly J. Gober , L . M.S.W. Mental Health Services Research and Policy Fellow Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, University of Texas at Austin

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Unintended implications of child welfare reform for texas foster children s mental health l.jpg

Unintended Implications of Child Welfare Reform for Texas Foster Children’s Mental Health

Kelly J. Gober, L.M.S.W. Mental Health Services Research and Policy FellowHogg Foundation for Mental Health, University of Texas at Austin

Lynda E. Frost, J.D., Ph.D. Associate Director for Mental Health Policy and LawHogg Foundation for Mental Health, University of Texas at Austin

Presented at the

University of Oregon School of Law, Oregon Child Advocacy Project Conference

Protecting Children’s Need for Nurturance: Proven Strategies and New Ideas

March 24-25, 2006


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Issues in Texas’ Spending on Child Welfare and Mental Health

  • 46th spending in public mental health care: $37.53 versus $80.83 nationally

  • 47th spending in child welfare

  • 48th spending in child abuse and neglect: $109 versus $276 nationally


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Child Fatalities in Texas Health

  • 44th in maltreatment-related child fatalities

  • In 50% of Texas’ fatalities, CPS had previous involvement with the families



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Foster Care and Mental Illness Health

  • Over 800,000 children served annually nationally

  • 32,474 served annually in Texas

  • Up to 80% diagnosed with one or more mental or behavioral disorders

  • Foster children use mental health services up to 15 times more than other children in the Medicaid system

  • High rates of mental illness, criminal involvement, and homelessness as adults



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Services for Texas’ Foster Children HealthAvg. Monthly Cost Per Child 2004N=25,000

40 times higher

30 times higher


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Mental Health-Related CPS Issues Health

  • High Caseworker Turnover

  • Placement Instability

  • Insufficient Mental Health Services

  • Inadequate Oversight of Mental Health Treatment


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Turnover: HealthImpact on Foster Child Mental Health and Well-Being

  • Interruption of child's connections while in foster care

  • Lack of continuity in mental health services

  • Increase child's feelings of neglect and sense of abandonment

  • Interference with therapy and goal attainment

  • Longer time in care

  • Longer to achieve permanency

  • Less likely to reunify with family


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Turnover and Reunification Health

Flower, McDonald, & Sumski, 2005


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Turnover Health

  • 40% of children had more than one worker in 9 months (Flower, McDonald, & Sumski, 2005)

  • Texas: 23.5% turnover for out-of-home care workers (APHSA, 2005)

  • Some report as high as 50% annually (CWLA, 2001; Alwon & Reitz, 2001; Graef & Hill, 2000; USGAO, 2003)

  • High percentage of workers on the job for <12 months (Flower, McDonald, & Sumski, 2005)

  • National average is three years (APHSA, 2004)


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Turnover: HealthConcerns in Texas

  • High turnover rate

  • Cost of training

  • Impact on caseload


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Placement Instability: HealthImpact on Foster Child Mental Health and Well-Being

  • Short-Term Outcomes

    • Insecure attachment

    • Unresolved grief or mourning

    • Anger and violence

    • Difficulty regulating behaviors, emotions, and physiology

  • Long-Term Outcomes

    • Mental illness

    • Drug dependence

    • Homelessness

Pecora et al., 2005; Russell, 2002; Dozier, Albus, & Fisher, 2002; Lanyado, 2003


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Placement Instability Health

  • Average for permanency: 3.2 in 1-2 years

  • Average for emancipated: 8.7 in 5 years

  • 14 states met CFSR standard of 86.7% of children having <3 placements within the first year of care (Median=50.9%; DHHS, 2004)

  • In Texas, only 71.2% of children had <3 placements during their first year of care (DHHS, 2004)


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Placement Instability: HealthConcerns in Texas

  • Overuse of emergency shelters

  • Lack of available placements for children with mental health issues

  • Lack of services to foster families

  • Placements based on availability rather than appropriateness

DHHS, 2004


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Insufficient Mental Health Services Health

  • Foster care population is grossly underserved

  • Nationally, approximately ¼ of foster children receive mental health services (Burns et al., 2004)

  • More than 500,000 children in the nation's child welfare system have unmet mental health needs (Burns et al., 2004)


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Insufficient Mental Health Services: HealthConcerns in Texas

  • Lack of available mental health services

  • Inconsistency in conducting mental health assessments

DHHS, 2004


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Inadequate Oversight of Mental Health Treatment: HealthUnder-Prescription

  • 50% of children with psychiatric diagnoses indicating a need for psychotropic medication received medication (Zima, 1990)

  • 25%-35% of foster children are prescribed psychotropic medications, compared with 15% of the general child population (MN, FL)


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Inadequate Oversight of Mental Health Treatment: HealthOver-Prescription

  • “The rampant ‘drugging’ of foster children

  • Multiple psychotropic medications in approximately 30%-50% of youth (Breland-Noble, Elbogen & Farmer, 2004)

  • Texas: one child had 14 prescriptions for 11 different medications (TDPRS, 2004)


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Inadequate Oversight of Mental Health Treatment: HealthConcerns in Texas

  • Diagnoses and prescriptions at assessment not reviewed, results in the continuation of unnecessary psychotropic medications

  • Lack of centralized information

  • Not getting therapy as directed

  • Medications not properly locked

  • Missed doses of medication

  • Poor medication documentation

TDPRS, 2004


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Recent Legal Reform in Texas: HealthStaff Recruitment and Retention

  • Funding for additional staff

  • Increased training for staff

  • Incentives for longevity


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Questions about Recruitment/Retention Health

  • Availability of funding currently and over time

  • Need for specific training on mental health issues

  • Role of telemedicine


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Recent Legal Reform in Texas: HealthMedicaid Managed Care

  • Improved access

  • Value-based purchasing

  • Medical home


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Questions about Medicaid Managed Care Health

  • Existing long-term relationships with service providers

  • Role of integrated health and mental health services


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Recent Legal Reform in Texas: HealthInformation Management

  • Health passport

  • Management information system


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Questions about Information Management Health

  • Confidentiality

  • Accessibility


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Recent Legal Reform in Texas: HealthJudicial Oversight

  • Requirement of child consent

  • Oversight of treatment


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Questions about Judicial Oversight Health

  • Child competence to consent

  • Expertise in treatment management


Thank you for your interest please send questions or comments to l.jpg

Thank you for your interest! HealthPlease send questions or comments to:

Kelly Gober kelly_gober@mail.utexas.edu

Lynda Frost lynda.frost@mail.utexas.edu