Education and System of Care
Consultant, Indiana School Mental Health Initiative
Since this article was first published, momentum has increased in efforts to meet the needs of the whole student. In addition, efforts are increasing to enhance collaboration across child-serving agencies. With this increase, we continue to hear these type of statements in our schools, as there is still much work to be done.
"Our school has a growing number students with significant social, emotional and learning challenges and this, of course, negatively impacts their academic stamina and progress. Our students are hurting for a variety of reasons including stress and adversity. In addition, we, as educators, are experiencing secondary trauma and compassion fatigue. Although we have supports coming into our schools it does not seem to be enough. What are we missing?"
The purpose of this paper is two-fold. One is to provide a snapshot of a systems approach that has proven to have long term, positive outcomes for youth, their families, and for communities. Second, this article provides information about how you, as an educator, can begin or increase your involvement with System of Care (SOC) in your community and at the state level.
For the purposes of this article, think of your school as one of the community agencies working collaboratively with other agencies in your community. Ideally, there is a lead agency to facilitate the work.
The concept of System of Care (SOC) was first articulated in 1986 as a value driven framework and philosophy. This framework was designed to guide the mental health field in reforming child-serving systems, services, and supports to better meet the needs of children and youth who were impacted by serious mental health challenges in their communities.
System of Care Values
- Family Driven and Youth Guided
- Community Based
- Culturally and Linguistically Competent.
System of Care Supporting Principles
- Broad Array of Effective Services and Supports
- Individualized and Least Restrictive
The strength of SOC is the foundation that is used to collectively shape the work of community agencies and organizations in ways that have proven effective. States and local communities have realized efficient and effective results as youth have been able to remain in their communities and with their families, and realize better long-term results at much less cost.
In 2010, the SOC philosophy and values were reexamined due to experiences and increased knowledge as well as recognition of changing needs. An issue brief was written to outline this evolution and offer updates and suggestions of how to continue to better meet the needs of youth and communities. For example, youth are now guiding and, in some cases, driving system change at all levels (Stroul,B., Blau,G., & Friedman,R., 2010).
The current SOC concept and philosophy includes children and youth at risk and other populations instead of only students who have serious mental illnesses. A functional System of Care allows, in fact, requires us to look at prevention and intervention in a systemic manner. Links for more information:
Why is it important for educators to understand and embrace the SOC philosophy and values?
When the SOC philosophy and values are infused in a community, our schools have an opportunity to collaborate with community members in a way that offers expertise, supports and services. We would all agree that school personnel are extremely important members of our communities. Schools are where our precious children spend much of their time and where we have many opportunities to have a meaningful positive impact. The SOC philosophy provides a framework for sustainable, collaborative support for schools and all youth-serving partners. In collaboration with these community agencies, including youth and families, we are able to define challenges in the community. We can then brainstorm and research how to meet those challenges and ensure that services and supports are effective. Again, we constantly find and are reminded that the school setting is a natural place for the delivery of these services and supports.
As an example, resources from agencies such as the Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs) can provide relevant and appropriate options to assist youth and families within the school setting. That means prevention and intervention services integrated into classrooms and other school settings. The key to this is meaningful collaboration between the agencies at the decision making level as well as the direct service provider level.
Please consider the following steps to participate in the SOC framework in your community.
- Explore these links for further information about Indiana System of Care.
- Please take this opportunity to explore the LookUp Indiana (https://lookupindiana.org/) website and pay close attention to the School Section. It has numerous helpful resources! It is maintained by your Indiana School Mental Health Initiative and updated on a regular basis.
- If you have not done so or do not participate in your SOC, contact the coordinator for your area. This is a link to the SOC coordinators by county, https://www.in.gov/fssa/dmha/files/Local_SOC_Coordinators.pdf
- If you have not made contact with your Community Mental Health Center’s access point, do so and explore the services families could expect to access through the access point. This is a link the Access Points by county, https://www.in.gov/fssa/dmha/files/CMHW_Access_Site_List.pdf.
- Engage in and/or support the activity of your SOC initiative. This looks different for each SOC group. As an educator, your voice in the SOC is essential especially when looking at the Social Emotional Learning/Mental Health needs of our students and colleagues.
- Attend Indiana SOC Advisory Board Meetings. The board meets quarterly. If you are interested in hearing more about this group, contact Erin Tock, firstname.lastname@example.org at Indiana NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness or Terri Miller at email@example.com.
The ultimate goal of System of Care is to create a system that is youth and family responsive that thoughtfully organizes resources to build resilience for all involved.
Stroul, B. & Friedman, R. (1986 rev ed). A system of care for children and youth with severe emotional disturbances (rev. ed., p. 30). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Child Development Center, National Technical Assistance Center for Children’s Mental Health.
Stroul B., Blau, G., & Friedman, R. (2010). Updating the system of care concept and philosophy. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development, National Technical Center for Children’s Mental Health.
Miller, T. (2018). Education and system of care. Retrieved from https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/pages/system-of-care.