As a parent or caregiver of a child with mental health needs, you have a right and a responsibility to take an active role in your child’s treatment. It is very important that you have the opportunity, right from the start, to ask questions and give input into the selection of the treatments and supports being recommended for your child. You also have a right to be actively involved in the services and supports being provided to your child throughout the treatment process.
You can expect that you will be directly involved alongside the professionals and service providers working with your family. Your role is to provide valuable information about your child, ask questions, and contribute your ideas, expertise and insight about the strategies that will work best for your child and family. You will also be expected to implement strategies in your home to support your child to reach their treatment goals.
Before your child begins any type of treatment you may want to ask what is the goal of treatment is and what new skills your child will learn as a result of it. You should also ask what to expect and what specifically you may see in your child as a result of the treatment? You may also want to ask how the team will assess if the treatment is working or the process for making adjustments if it isn’t. You also want to be sure to ask specifically how you can best support your child and how you will be involved in your child’s treatment throughout the process. For more information about questions to ask about proposed treatment click here.
As your child gets started in treatment it is often a good idea to share right away with the each service provider involved in your family that you wish to be actively involved in all aspects of you child’s treatment. Your participation is critically important because you know your child best and you also know what strategies will work best for your child and in your home.
Then ask the providers how you can best be involved and support your child’s participation in treatment. If there are areas they are asking you to be supportive that you feel you do not have the skills or knowledge to be successful be sure to share that with your child’s treatment providers or team, as they may be able to provide you with some training, information or other support that may help you. If your child’s team is asking you to implement strategies in your home and you are having difficulty, you could ask the provider to come into your home and model the strategy and provide feedback and support. Providers may also have videos or training available to assist families and other support people. Sometimes, if your child receives services from your local community mental health agency and you are eligible for the service a Parent Support Partner may be available to assist you.
Your child’s treatment team should put together a treatment plan or plan of service that includes: A list of treatment goals that will be achieved, which should be things that are important to your family; Strategies that will be used to implement the plan in your home, school and the community; Services and supports needed to reach those goals that match your family’s lifestyle; Regular reports on treatment progress and an ongoing communication plan for your team to discuss what is and isn’t working and progress along the way.
There may be a case manager, coordinator, or team facilitator whose role is to organize and coordinate your child’s treatment, services and supports. Their role is to ensure your child’s plan and the supports made available to you are easy for you to use, and provide your family with needed services, supports and guidance. They can also help you to identify other potential sources of support and should also help you to “navigate the system.” Sometimes, if you’d like and if you feel ready, you can choose to be your family’s case manager or at least take the lead in the planning and decision-making process.
As your child’s parent you are often the only “constant” throughout the different plans, supports, services, and professionals. This makes you a valuable asset to the treatment team. You are in the best position to know what works and doesn’t for your child because you see your child across time and environments. You are also the link between what has been successful in the past, what is happening right now, and what will best support you and your child’s dreams for the future.
Collaborating with the professionals that serve your family can sometimes feel intimidating but as the parent of a child with mental health challenges you should be an equal partner with the providers that serve your family. To learn more about hoe to better collaborate with system providers and how build strong parent-professional partnerships click here.
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.
Providers on your team should be able to answer your questions about suggested treatments and be able to support their recommendations 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.
If you still have questions about a particular treatment or need support making it work in your home you can call the ACMH office and someone can help you find information about the treatment and make suggestions about how you might access the help you need in your community.