Behavioral Health Services Integration in Child Welfare

Enhancing Parental Behavioral Health Services Integration in Child Welfare


This year-long project seeks to address the concerns of DCF child welfare stakeholders, including leadership and staff. Specifically, the stakeholders have identified the need for: 1) systematic detection of caregiver behavioral health needs; 2) enhanced training of child welfare professionals in using screening results to improve referrals and engagement in behavioral health treatment; and 3) identification and training of community behavioral health clinicians in child welfare-specific evidenced-based counseling approaches. Two additional, overarching needs were also identified from meetings with child welfare administration and staff: 1) identify existing sources of information and data that capture behavioral health detection, referral and outcomes in order to recommend new data collection and analyses systems; and 2) improve coordination and communication among different systems of care that are critical to improve overall integration of caregiver behavioral health within child welfare.

The overall goal of this project is to pilot approaches to fill identified gaps in the need for integration of behavioral health interventions in child welfare-involved adult caregivers (18 and older).  The specific goals of this project are to develop, implement, and test the feasibility and initial outcomes of training to improve detection, engagement and intervention for parental behavioral health needs in child welfare.  Two levels of training will be implemented and tested based on the roles of child welfare staff and behavioral health clinicians. 

The specific aims of the project are:

  1. To determine gaps and opportunities for improved behavioral health integration among child welfare personnel within the Circuit 2 Managing Entity as well as among the behavioral health clinicians at the primary Medicaid-serving behavioral health center in the region.  Using qualitative methodology, themes will be refined and analyzed as related to needs and opportunities in training, care referral and coordination, clinical and Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) outcomes, and tracking and use of data.
  2. To train child welfare professionals in evidence-based screening, referral and intervention for mental health and substance abuse.  The focus will be on the detection of primary parental risk issues, motivational interviewing for engagement, and “warm hand off” referrals with monitoring and support.  Outcomes will include uptake and fidelity to training, and implementation of interventions including tracking of referral adherence/engagement.
  3. To train community behavioral health clinicians in evidence-based, trauma-informed counseling approaches.  Outcomes will include training implementation outcomes (fidelity and skills) as well as clinical and child welfare outcomes for the clients.