State Agency Helps Children with Severe Behavior Disorders

Article excerpt

The Community and Residential Services Authority may be one of the least-known of state agencies, but it performs one of the most important jobs by helping children who have a severe emotional disturbance or behavior disorder.

The job is not easy.

It requires threading through not only state bureaucracy - a formidable enough task - but also through local and private agencies that all have something to do with children.

I proposed legislation in 1985 that formed CRSA as part of the state's school code because too many children were not being served appropriately. They were not getting the help they deserved and desperately needed and the situation was getting worse.

Children who are emotionally disturbed or who have a behavior disorder did not fall neatly into bureaucratic pigeonholes.

One agency thought of the children in one way, while a second agency looked at the problem from only its perspective and might come to a far different conclusion.

Frequently, a child and his or her parents were tossed about in a sea of confusion. Everyone had an opinion, but no one really had an answer.

CRSA provides a sort of clearinghouse to help children. Sometimes it is mediator and other times it is navigator. Regardless of the role, serving the best interest of the child is the overriding goal.

CRSA has done well. It has resolved disputes regarding various agencies' service plans for a child with special needs. So far, more than 3,500 children and their families have been helped.

More than two out of three of these children have been assisted in getting appropriate services through a combination of information, referral and technical assistance provided through agencies in the local community.

What's more remarkable, the remaining one-third have resorted to formal "dispute resolution," and all but three of those cases were successfully resolved. …