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The Continuum of Care for Children and Adolescents
No. 42

Many (but not all) communities provide various services and treatment programs for children and adolescents who may be affected by emotional or mental illnesses or disabilities. The term "continuum of care" simply means a complete scope of services or programs designed to assist children, adolescents and their families. When a good number of these services are offered by psychiatric hospitals or other care systems, the continuum of care may be referred to as a health care system.

Today, many parents have children with mental and emotional problems that may lead to anxiety or conduct disorders and other problems. Usually, the first step when a parent is concerned about the behavior of their child is to consult with a qualified mental health professional who can evaluate the needs of the child so that he/she can recommend the service or services that would best suit the needs of the child and the family.

When a child or adolescent experiences mental or emotional problems it affects the entire family. Some of the various programs or services typically found in a continuum of care for children and adolescents may include:

Family support services - These services are designed to help train parents in caring for their mentally or emotionally disturbed children, some offering parent support groups.

Comprehensive treatment by a psychiatrist in a hospital setting. Children and adolescents may receie treatment in a hospital depending upon their problem; the length of treatment varies according to the specific needs of the child.

Weekly visits to an outpatient clinic or physicians office. You child/adolescent may benefit from visiting the doctor on a weekly basis or more often, depending upon his/her needs.

Treatment in the home. Not only does the child need support and treatment, family members need the help of specially trained staff as well. This helps family members understand the dynamics and cope with the child's needs.

Intensive case management. In some instances it may be necessary to have specially trained individuals provide an entire range of services such as psychiatric, legal, medical and financial services so that the child/adolescent can live successfully within the community and in the home.

The continuum of care for children and adolescents in any given community may provide additional services to those listed above or fewer. It is important that parents be aware of help that is available in the community, as emotional and mental illness in a child/adolescent needs to be addressed early on. Having the support of additional services benefits not only the child, but the entire family

This article was written by Hellen Huntsman, a staff member.

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