In the process of trying to meet your child’s mental health needs, your child and family may work with a variety of service providers. The service provider’s you work with are often referred to as your “team”. People on your team may include representatives from many systems, including: schools, doctors, community mental health agencies, and other individuals that you & your child want to be part of the team.
As the parent of a child with mental health challenges you should be an equal partner with the providers that serve your family. You can expect that you will be directly involved alongside this team of professionals, providing valuable information, asking questions, handling responsibilities, and contributing your expertise and insights.
There may be a case manager, resource coordinator, or team facilitator whose role on your team is to organize and coordinate services so that they are easy for you to use, and provide you and your family with needed services, supports and guidance. They can also help you and the team to identify other potential sources of support and they should also help you to “navigate the system.”
In the same way that you are the expert on your child, mental health professionals are the experts on the range of available treatments and services and how they work for children and families. The professionals on your team can offer information on many interventions and approaches to your child’s problems. They have experience with many children and families and they bring these skills to your child just as you bring your expertise on your child to the team
Providers on your team should be able to support their opinions or suggestions with some form of evidence (scientific studies) as to why some treatment approaches are recommended over others. For more information about mental health treatment and supports click here.
The most successful teams and plans are those in which both and the family’s and health professionals’ areas of expertise are acknowledged and blended together in a flexible way to create an effective plan and the best outcomes for the child. Joint decision-making is the most effective way of planning for effective treatment.
Your team will work together to create a plan of services and supports that includes:
- Goals to achieve that are important to your family
- Strategies to implement those goals in the home, school and the community
- Services and supports that that match your family’s lifestyle & culture; that are provided as close to home as possible
- Regular reports on progress and ongoing communication
Mental health services should be family driven and youth guided. This means your family should lead the way in deciding what you would like to achieve out of treatment and be a key part of planning the strategies and supports needed to get there.
You can expect that the team will consider your child and family’s strengths, preferences, culture, values, and priorities when selecting the best services and supports for your child and family.
Once a plan is in place the team will provide any needed services and supports and help you to implement strategies to help your child reach their goals. You can expect to be an active participant in your child’s treatment throughout the process. To learn more about how to be ensure you are an active participant in your child’s treatment click here.
Most treatment plans try to provide services to children and their families in “the least restrictive environment.” The least restrictive environment is the one that makes as few changes as possible at your child’s home and community, while still meeting his or her mental health needs. Children generally do better in the home environment with their own families. There are times, however, when it is not possible or safe for the child to be at home. In these cases, hospitalization or other treatment options may be recommended. Both the family and health professionals must carefully consider these options. For more information about what to expect if your child needs to be hospitalized click here.
At every step of the process, you have the right to ask questions and make suggestions. You have the right to have your child’s treatment plan explained so that you can fully understand and decide whether you agree or disagree with the strategies and goals suggested. You may even need to have the plan explained more than once so that you understand and that is ok. It is important that you understand what the problem is and how the treatment plan will help your child improve.
In order to ensure you get your questions answers and understand how treatment will help we strongly recommend that you take the following steps:
- Write down questions that you want to ask in advance of any meeting.
- Bring a friend, relative to the initial treatment meetings. Ask the person who is accompanying you to listen carefully and be an “extra pair of ears.” This is very helpful, because sometimes these meetings can be stressful and it is hard to understand and respond to all of the information you may be given.
Frequent contact and open communication between parents and the treatment team helps to keep treatment going in the right direction and allows everyone to work together to do what is best for your child. You should feel free to share your feelings about the treatment and comment on how your child is responding. Studies have shown that the best results are achieved when the family is actively involved in the child’s planning and ongoing treatment and comfortable enough to give their own feedback on the plan.
Between meetings and visits with professionals, keep a list of questions that you and your child think of –- they can be hard to remember later at the meeting. If possible, have your child write his or her questions on a list or write them down yourself for your child. This is a good way to reinforce your child’s role in his or her care. You can also help by making sure that your child and family keep their appointments.
If, along the way you find that some part of the plan isn’t working as you expected, it is your right and responsibility to bring this to your team’s attention so that a more effective plan can be implemented.
The plan of services and supports should be an ongoing, flexible document or plan, which can be easily adapted to best meet your child’s needs.
If you ever feel you do not have control over decisions about your child’s treatment, keep in mind that Michigan’s Mental Health Code and other laws ensure that you and your child’s rights are protected. As a parent, you have the right to fully understand what is happening and why. For more information about your rights outlined in the mental health code click here.
It can be helpful to can become familiar with the basic rights you can use on behalf of your child to obtain the necessary care and appropriate treatment.
Your basic treatment right is the right to make informed decisions about the care of your child. You cannot make informed decisions if you are not informed or do not understand what is being said to you by your treatment team. Mental Health providers must give you enough information for you to know what is happening, why it is happening, and for how long it will happen.
What if I Disagree With My Child’s Treatment Plan?
Whenever you disagree with decisions made about your child’s services and treatment, it is a good idea to try talking it out first. Go to your child’s case manager if you are unhappy with a health care provider or type of treatment or talk to the supervisor if your first conversation does not solve the problem. If that does not resolve your problem you can appeal. Because many programs come with their own rules, it can be very confusing to figure out what to do. The appeal you use depends on a lot of factors . Often there can be more than one way to appeal. Click here for a list of your basic appeal rights.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that as with treatment works ~ but it can take time! As with treatments for some physical illnesses, treatment for behavioral and emotional disorders can take months, or even years. That doesn’t mean it isn’t working – it’s just that the process may take longer than expected to be successful.
Remember, you are your child’s best advocate, so ask plenty of questions, stay actively involved throughout the treatment process and most importantly use your instincts and knowledge to help develop the best plan for your child.
If at any time you feel your team is not doing some of the things listed above talk it over with them. If you concerns do not get addressed to your satisfaction feel free to call the ACMH office and ask for some assistance.