Author: Karen Copeland
In my previous post Why Parent Engagement? I shared some of the data that had been collected as part of a survey on Mental Health Services for Kids Six to Twelve – Family Perspectives. In that post, I focused on the responses families provided regarding their experiences within the education system. Today, I would like to share the responses of the families regarding their experiences within the community service systems.
A quick recap regarding the previous post:
Last year, in my previous role with The F.O.R.C.E. Society for Kids’ Mental Health, I had the opportunity to work with Natalie Ackermann, a Masters of Social Work student from the University of the Fraser Valley on a research study. We wanted to ask families their perspective on mental health services for kids between the ages of six and twelve. We picked this age range because there is shockingly little in terms of support available to this age group. We believed we would be able to generate some data to support this. Together, Natalie and I created a survey for families to complete that looked at publicly funded ministry supports, community supports, financial support and education support. A total of 25 people responded to the survey. The survey was completed by families in Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Mission.
All data below is from Mental Health Services for Kids Six to Twelve – Family Perspectives; Natalie Ackermann, University of the Fraser Valley, 2014. Information on how to request a copy of this study is at the end of this post.
An overview of the mental health challenges families are facing with their children, along with a table illustrating other challenges their children were experiencing.
Families were asked to indicate what type of services they were accessing through the Ministry of Child and Family Development.
Because we were looking specifically at perspectives on mental health services, families were asked to provide their opinion on their child’s mental health treatment plan. Here are the responses.
When asked what types of barriers exist for families to access mental health services for their child, they provided the following responses:
I think it is interesting that the top two responses – unsure of what services exist, and unsure of how system(s) work and how to access services, correspond to the barriers families feel within the education system. To me, this suggests that more work needs to be done in ensuring families understand and are aware of the services in our communities that are available to them. A great resource to assist with this is The F.O.R.C.E. Society for Kids’ Mental Health. Families can connect with a parent who has lived experience who will assist with identifying services as well as provide information and support.
When asked about barriers regarding access to specific mental health services, families responded:
(CYMH – Child and Youth Mental Health)
Regarding the responses indicated difficulty accessing medical care, I would like to make mention of the Doctors of BC Initiative (Child and Youth Mental Health module) that provides resource and service information to family doctors, pediatricians, school personnel and community services staff. I have had the opportunity to attend two learning sessions in our community, and was encouraged by the number of questions and curiousity from the providers regarding child and youth mental health. I am hopeful this initiative will help families feel like they are more easily able to access support from their family doctor and pediatrician.
Additionally, the Interior Region of our province came together over the past year and half to host the Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Collaborative to discuss the importance of collaboration and communication between service systems to ensure better access to care for families. Plans are now in place to roll out similar initiatives in other regions of the province.
When respondents were asked to provide information about financial impact, the following was shared:
This suggests families are carrying the financial costs of ensuring their child receives the services they require. A further point for reflection might be to consider the number of families who do not have the financial means to purchase services. It would be interesting to learn of the level of awareness families have regarding accessing support through charitable organizations such as Variety or the CKNW Orphans Fund.
So why is this data important?
I have always believed there is tremendous value in families being able to share their stories and experiences to further educate those within the system regarding what is working, and where there are gaps that need to be addressed. However, we cannot rely on stories only. Unless we have some data that illustrates the extent of the experiences, stories can be interpreted as “one family’s experience”. However, when multiple families are coming forward and saying they have similar experiences, it lends to the credibility and legitimacy of the stories being shared (not that they shouldn’t already be deemed credible or legitimate!).
Being mindful of the responses provided by the families, I would like to send out a challenge to communities to think about ways some of these barriers can be addressed. This should not be the responsibility of one service system in isolation, this is the responsibility of the entire community. What initiatives could your community undertake to ensure families have a better understanding of what types of services are available to them to access? Thinking about the data illustrated in the previous post, are there ways your community can address supported recreational programs or increased mentorship for the children in your community?
Most importantly, perhaps this data will encourage you to reach out and connect with the families in your community who may be struggling. To hear and understand their story. To collaborate with families to identify what they think might be helpful. Recognizing the need to come together to learn from and with each other, instead of working in isolation.
I would like to again express my deep gratitude to Natalie Ackermann for the time she spent on this research study. The information she collected from families should be a catalyst for change in our systems. If you are interested in receiving the full research paper, I invite you to email me firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will forward you the file.