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Special Issue on Children's Mental Health Policy Guest Edited by CFS's Mario Hernandez

In March, the Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders released a special issue on children’s mental health policy. Guest edited by Department of Child and Family Studies’ faculty member Mario Hernandez, this issue addresses the impact of values and principles inherent in the systems of care (SOC) approach on formation of national child mental health policy. This special issue also features contributions by CFS staff Sharon Hodges and Robert Friedman.

Since the 1980s, SOC values have had an significant impact on children’s mental health services in the United States, to which the following innovations attest: (a) the development, implementation and outcomes monitoring of successful services, (b) the creation of collaborative efforts between agencies, (c) a deeper understanding of the effect of culture on service development and delivery, and (d) a greater awareness of the importance of the family perspective in the creation and implementation of effective services in real world settings.

The SOC philosophy has also influenced policy development among other child-serving agencies, such as child welfare, juvenile justice, and education. However, while SOC values have helped considerably to shape children’s mental health services in this country, services are still fragmented and difficult for both policymakers and families to navigate. The articles in this series work together to articulate issues important to developing a national policy that successfully integrates SOC principles. Discussions include preliminary, theoretical concerns as well as exemplary practices that can assist in the conceptualization of such a policy.

First, Hernandez and Lourie suggest that SOC principles are currently functioning in place of a national child mental health policy, and they call for a policy to be articulated that will further coordinate services, policy, and research agendas. Next, Friedman offers a framework for thinking about the development of a national mental health policy, and provides insight into understanding how relationships among various government and child-serving agencies can “assist policymakers and advocates in thinking carefully about the features of any proposed policy” (p. 3).

Recognizing that the SOC philosophy operates at multiple levels (i.e., at the national and local levels), Hernandez and Hodges rethink and expand the systems change theory underlying SOC principles in order to foster better outcomes for children and their families. Rosenblatt and Woodbridge add to the overall discussion presented in this special issue by describing how various methods of health policy analysis can be utilized to measure services outcomes.

Moving in general from the theoretical to the more practical aspects involved in the formulation of a national policy, Freisen et al. present a case study of how research can influence policy change, and advocate for partnerships between researchers and family members. Finally, Webb and Harden suggest that various opportunities for working collaboratively with other child-serving agencies are already in place.
Over 700 copies of this special issue were provided by the publisher for the
Research and Training Center for Children’s Mental Health’s 16th Annual Research Conference, A System of Care for Children’s Mental Health: Expanding the Research Base

Citation: Hernandez, M. (Ed.). (2003). Children’s Mental Health Policy [Special issue]. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders 11(1).

The Department of Child and Family Studies (CFS) is a department of the Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, University of South Florida. The faculty and staff of CFS are committed to enhancing the development, mental health and well-being of children and families through leadership in integrating research, theory & practice.

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