New Data: Early Intervention Supports Healthy Development and Improves Family Life
By Kristin Blank
According to a recent SAMHSA report, behavioral and emotional problems decreased among nearly one-third (31 percent) of young children with mental health challenges within the first 6 months after entering services through systems of care.
The report, Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Young Children and Their Families, describes the academic, social, and emotional performance outcomes of children age 8 and younger receiving services in systems of care. These SAMHSA-funded systems of care programs provide family-driven and culturally and linguistically competent services and supports to children and youth with mental health challenges and their families.
The report was released on National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, SAMHSA’s annual celebration of the importance of caring for every child’s mental health (for more information, see SAMHSA News coverage of Awareness Day Events).
The national evaluation of systems of found the following.
- Strain on caregivers. Nearly one-third of caregivers of young children with mental health challenges reported less strain 6 months after their children entered services in a system of care. Specifically, these caregivers reported less strain in areas such as the caregiver feeling sad/unhappy or isolated, as well as disruptions of family routines and missed work/neglected duties as a result of their child’s emotional or behavioral problems.
- Afterschool or childcare settings. Changing afterschool and childcare arrangements can be detrimental to the well-being of young children and their families. Within 6 months after entering systems of care, the number of children age 8 and younger changing afterschool or childcare settings fell by nearly 43 percent.
- Emotional well-being. Behavioral and emotional symptoms decreased among nearly one-third of the children (31 percent) within the first 6 months after entering systems of care.
The SAMHSA report also references research studies that illustrate the need to address mental health during early child development. These findings show that young children who enter kindergarten with effective social skills generally have an easier time developing relationships with peers and do better in school; and young children who receive effective, age-appropriate mental health services and supports are more likely to complete high school, have fewer contacts with law enforcement, and improve their ability to live independently and productively.
Children and youth receiving services in federally funded systems of care range in age from birth through 21 years. To be eligible for services, they must have, or have had at any time during the past year, an emotional, socioemotional, behavioral, or mental disorder that meets standardized diagnostic criteria, is of sufficient duration, and affects child or youth functioning in home, school, and/or community, or requires intervention by multiple child-serving agencies.
Short report findings are based upon data collected by the national evaluation of system of care communities initially funded from 2002 through 2006. Young children in this national evaluation sample entered systems of care from 2003 through 2009. Data are reported for the 2,207 young children in the evaluation with complete data at entry into services.
Download Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Young Children and Their Families.