FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Todd Hallidy
Phone: (302) 577-8314
Date: June 7, 2001
REPORT SAYS REFORMS COULD HELP MENTALLY ILL CHILDREN
Lawmakers given recommendations compiled from recent state conference
(Dover, DE) - Attorney General M. Jane Brady today released a report summarizing reform proposals that emerged from a recent conference entitled If We Just...Strategies for Improving Services to Children With Mental and Cognitive Disabilities and Their Families. Specific recommendations were included under four general areas of concern identified by participants: supporting families, easing transitions as clients move through the service network, collaboration between agencies, and legislative reform. The conference was held May 4th at Delaware Technical and Community College in Dover. It was sponsored by the Delaware Disabilities Forum, which the Attorney General founded and chairs, and the Developmental Disabilities Council.
According to Attorney General Brady, "The topics we presented challenged the participants to think how they would like the system to work. Delaware is doing many things well, but can do even better. I want to thank the professionals who shared their valuable insight at the conference. Their thoughtful contributions have given us concrete objectives."
One of the primary reform ideas is to enhance the support mechanisms available to families. Some children, it is believed, can avoid a future in the foster care system if the family has the proper support. Among the suggestions: development of a Medicaid waiver to provide family support systems; creation of flexible funding that "follows" a child upon return home from foster care or residential treatment, saving money that could be used to develop services in the community for that child; expansion of respite services for family care-givers; and lengthening of summer programs for children with disabilities. Further, participants suggested Delaware agencies adopt a so-called "wraparound" philosophy that prescribes an individualized service and support plan for each child and family.
The second broad area, transitional issues, prompted two suggestions. One proposal would keep the same case manager/family service coordinator for children with chronic disabilities from 0-5 years of age, rather than the current switching at age 3. An second recommendation seeks a legislative remedy to the disparate maximum ages for which a child is eligible for services from different state agencies. Many children with multiple problems are not ready to be on their own at age 18 and often the transition to adult services is difficult.
With respect to the third general area, collaboration between agencies, conference participants recommended that a model program in Iowa be further examined for possible implementation in Delaware. In Iowa, agencies contribute money to a single fund to develop treatment plans. Further, in a broader sense, the report recommends stronger collaboration between all agencies, both state and private, that work with children. Participants also saw a need for more extensive training for Foster Care providers in home-restraining techniques, therapeutic techniques and other areas. More meaningful training was also recommended for families, teachers and other community members.
The list of recommendations also included proposals to modify policy and current law. There was a suggestion that foster homes be developed that have a limit of one foster child when that child has disabilities. Another proposal, if implemented, would establish a permanent, long-term, therapeutic school setting with all services built into one facility. Participants also noted a need for support services for children who currently fall outside criteria established by the Division of Mental Retardation. Lastly, participants called for a review of current legislation to determine how it can be reinforced to help children with disabilities.
Attorney General Brady delivered the report to members of the General Assembly today during the Disability Awareness Day observance at Legislative Hall.