Use of the public mental health system by children in foster care: Client characteristics and service use patterns
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This study examined client crossover from the social services (DSS) to the mental health (SDMHS) system in San Diego County. Public mental health service use was examined in 1,352 subjects participating in a longitudinal study of children in foster care. Overall, 17.4% (n=235) of the children in DSS were also served in SDMHS. Children in DSS who also received services from SDMHS (multiple-system youth) were compared with children only served in DSS (single-system youth). Multiple-system youth were significantly older and had different removal and placement histories than single-system youth. Within multiple-system youth, analyses compared demographic and diagnostic data of subgroups defined by the number of episodes and/or the levels of mental health care received. These analyses revealed that a small group of multiple-system youth (16.6%) were the most severely disturbed and received the most services. Methodological issues related to tracking clients across service sectors are discussed.
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