How Parents Seek Help for Children with Mental Health Problems

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Parents seeking help for their child’s mental health problem face a complicated system of services. We examined how parents navigate the various services available. Sixty parents contacting a children’s mental health center were interviewed regarding their efforts and rationale in seeking help for their child. On average, in the year prior to the interview parents sought help for two different child problems, contacted five different agencies or professionals for help, and parents and/or children received two different treatments. One fifth of the time parents said they accepted treatments that they did not want. Almost all parents (87%) were simultaneously in contact with more than one agency at some point within the previous year. Future help-seeking models need to capture the iterative referral process that many parents experience.