ADVOCATING FOR YOUR CHILD
Articles for Parents
All Family Resources
Alphabetical List
  1. Children and Divorce
  2. Teenagers with Eating Disorders
  3. Teens: Alcohol and Other Drugs
  4. The Depressed Child
  5. Child Abuse - The Hidden Bruises
  6. Children Who Can't Pay Attention
  7. Children Who Won't Go to School
  8. Children and Grief
  9. Child Sexual Abuse
  10. Teen Suicide
  11. The Child with Autism
  12. Children Who Steal
  13. Children and TV Violence
  14. Children and Family Moves
  15. The Adopted Child
  16. Children with Learning Disabilities
  17. Children of Alcoholics
  18. Bedwetting
  19. The Child with a Long-Term Illness
  20. Making Day Care a Good Experience
  21. Psychiatric Medication for Children and Adolescents Part I: How Medications Are Used
  22. Normality
  23. Mental Retardation
  24. Know When to Seek Help for Your Child
  25. Who can be contacted to seek Help for Your Child
  26. Know Your Health Insurance Benefits
  27. Stepfamily Problems
  28. Responding to Child Sexual Abuse
  29. Psychiatric Medication for Children and Adolescents Part II: Types of Medications
  30. Children and AIDS
  31. When Children Have Children
  32. 11 Questions to Ask Before Psychiatric Hospital Treatment of Children and Adolescents
  33. Conduct Disorders
  34. Children's Sleep Problems
  35. Tic Disorders
  36. Helping Children After a Disaster
  37. Children and Firearms
  38. Bipolar Disorder (Manic-Depressive Illness) in Teens
  39. Children of Parents with Mental Illness
  40. The Influence of Music and Music Videos
  41. Substance Abuse Treatment for Children and Adolescents: Questions to Ask
  42. The Continuum of Care
  43. Discipline
  44. Children and Lying
  45. Lead Exposure
  46. Home Alone Children
  47. The Anxious Child
  48. Problems with Soiling and Bowel Control
  49. Schizophrenia in Children
  50. Panic Disorder in Children and Adolescents
  51. Psychiatric Medications for Children and Adolescents Part III: Questions to Ask
  52. Comprehensive Psychiatric Evaluation
  53. What is Psychotherapy For Children and Adolescents?
  54. Children and Watching TV
  55. Understanding Violent Behavior in Children & Adolescents
  56. Parenting: Preparing for Adolescence
  57. Normal Adolescent Development - Middle School and Early High School Years
  58. Normal Adolescent Development - Late High School Years and Beyond
  59. Children Online
  60. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in Children and Adolescents
  61. Children and Sports
  62. Talking to Your Kids About Sex
  63. Gay And Lesbian Adolescents
  64. Foster Care
  65. Children's Threats: When are they serious? 
  66. Helping Teenagers with Stress
  67. Children and The News
  68. Tobacco and Kids
  69. Asperger's Disorder
  70. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  71. Multiracial Children
  72. Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder
  73. Self-Injury in Adolescents
  74. Advocating for Your Child
  75. Pets and Children
  76. Helping Your Teen Become a Safe Driver
  77. Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
  78. When a Pet Dies
  79. Obesity in Children and Teens
  80. Bullying #80
ADVOCATING FOR YOUR CHILD

According to Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General (1999), 1 in 5 will experience signs and symptoms of a psychiatric disorder during the course of the year. Some nine million children have serious emotional problems at any point in time. Yet, only 1 in 5 of these children are receiving appropriate treatment. When parents or teachers suspect that a child may have an emotional problem, they should seek a comprehensive evaluation by a mental health professional specifically trained to work with children and adolescents. Signs and symptoms of childhood and adolescent emotional problems may include:

  • School problems
  • Frequent fighting
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling sad
  • Thoughts about suicide or running away
  • Stealing or lying
  • Mood swings
  • Setting fires
  • Obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors
  • Excessive weight loss or gain
  • Troubling or disturbing thoughts
  • Use of drugs or alcohol
  • Withdraw or isolation
  • Injuring or killing animals
  • Dangerous or self destructive behavior
  • Trouble paying attention
  • Anxiety or frequent worries

Throughout the evaluation process, parents should be directly involved and ask many questions. It's important to make sure you understand the results of the evaluation, your child's diagnosis, and the full range of treatment options. If parents are not comfortable with a particular clinician, treatment option, or are confused about specific recommendations, they should consider a second opinion.

Before a child begins treatment, parents may also want to ask the following:

  • What are the recommended treatment options for my child?
  • How will I be involved with my child's treatment?
  • How will we know if the treatment is working?
  • How long should it take before I see improvement?
  • Does my child need medication?
  • What should I do if the problems get worse?
  • What are the arrangements if I need to reach you after-hours or in an emergency?

You may also need to advocate to have your child seen in a timely way, by the most appropriate clinician. Most insurance plans now include some form of managed care, which may utilize provider panels with few mental health professionals. However, many states now have laws concerning reasonable access to specialists. If you have problems or questions, try calling the Department of Insurance, the Patient Ombudsman/Advocate, or the Department of Consumer Affairs at your insurance company.

Ongoing parental involvement and support are essential to the overall success of treatment. Depending on the nature of your child's problems, it may also be important to involve the school, community agencies, and/or juvenile justice system. In addition, it may be helpful to learn how to access other support services such as respite, parent skill building, or home-based programs. Local advocacy groups can also provide valuable information, experience and support for parents.

Although serious emotional problems are common in childhood and adolescence, they are also highly treatable. By advocating for early identification, comprehensive evaluation and appropriate intervention, parents can make sure their children get the help they need, and reduce the risk of long term emotional difficulties.

For additional information see Facts for Families: #00 Definition of a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, #24 Know When to Seek Help for Your Child, #25 Know Where to Seek Help for Your Child, #26 Know Your Health Insurance Benefits, and #52 Comprehensive Psychiatric Evaluation. See also: Your Child (1998 Harper Collins)/Your Adolescent (1999 Harper Collins), Surgeon General's Report (1999).

For more information about parent advocacy, contact:
Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health
(703) 684-7710
1021 Prince Street
Alexandria, VA 22314-2971
www.ffcmh.org
National Alliance of the Mentally Ill
Colonial Place Three
(703) 524-7600
2107 Wilson Blvd-3rd Floor
Arlington, VA 22201
www.nami.org
National Mental Health Association
(703) 684-7722
1021 Prince Street
Alexandria, VA 22314-2971
www.nmha.org

 

Article # 74 Updated 02/00

All Family Resources wishes to thank the (AACAP) for giving us permission to use this article.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) represents over 6,900 child and adolescent psychiatrists who are physicians with at least five years of additional training beyond medical school in general (adult) and child and adolescent psychiatry.

Facts for Families is developed and distributed by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP). Facts sheets may be reproduced for personal or educational use without written permission, but cannot be included in material presented for sale. To order full sets of FFF, contact Public Information, 1.800.333.7636.  Free distribution of individual Facts sheets is a public service of the AACAP Special Friends of Children Fund. Please make a tax deductible contribution to the AACAP Special Friends of Children Fund and support this important public outreach. (AACAP, Special Friends of Children Fund, P.O. Box 96106, Washington, D.C. 20090).
   
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