The Children’s Mental Health Coalition has published a report, Someone to Care: the mental health needs of children and young people in the care and youth justice systems, which was launched today (11th July 2013) by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald.
The main aim of the study is to explore the experiences and mental health needs of children and young people from the perspectives of those who have experienced the care and youth justice systems. The main issues identified by young people in the study include:
- Their need to be understood and to develop trusting relationships with key individuals in these systems;
- the lack of a shared understanding of mental health, which has led to it often being associated only with mental illness and diagnosable psychiatric disorders; and
- the critical importance of stability and continuity in relation to where they live, the services they use and the professionals who work with them.
The report also explores the professionals’ views of the barriers to meeting these needs, including the challenges associated with inter-agency collaboration, which is essential in providing comprehensive services to children and young people in care and youth justice systems. It then reviews the international and legal, human rights and policy contexts for the provision of mental health services to young people in these systems; analyses the economic context; presents learning from international best practice in service provision; and finally makes recommendations for future developments.
The main recommendations of the report are as follows:
- Listen to the voice of the child and involve them in planning service developments, education and consultation.
- Issue a policy statement and national strategy to address the mental health needs of children in the care of the State.
- Establish a common assessment framework and ongoing monitoring of children’s mental health needs.
- Provide stability for children in these systems.
- Provide adequate and equitable access to services.
- Establish mandatory protocols for inter-agency work.
- Develop training programmes in identifying and understanding psychological well-being issues as an integral part of professional development for all professionals.
- Provide legislative protection for children and young adults leaving care or the youth justice system, and for children who are homeless.
IPRT is a proud member of the Children's Mental Health Coalition, which is chaired by Mental Health Reform and has 50 member organisations from a range of backgrounds and sectors.
The full report can be read here.