Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Wrapping around Kids in Need: A Missouri Provider Finds That Investing in the Front End of Services Pays Off

Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Wrapping around Kids in Need: A Missouri Provider Finds That Investing in the Front End of Services Pays Off

Article excerpt

Families and social workers are faced with many challenges when trying to access services to address abuse, neglect, or mental health concerns. The system is underresourced and disjointed and, unfortunately, this system is where we often find the 5 to 9% of American children who have at least one serious emotional disturbance (SED) and the 896,000 children abused or neglected each year (2002 estimates according to the Child Welfare League of America). Violence, mental disorders, and health problems are just a few of the challenges these children face and, adding to the chaos, many are without a permanent home. More than half a million children are in the foster care system, according to CWLA. These children require customized, attentive care to have a fighting chance at living successfully in the community.

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The Missouri Alliance for Children and Families (MACF) helps these neglected, abused, and SED children live safely within a family setting. In 1997, the organization was formed to provide the comprehensive, community-based wraparound care that these children desperately need. Since then, MACF's programs and successful outcomes are conservatively estimated to have saved Missouri more than $16 million by the end of 2006. MACF currently manages 898 cases, more than any other child welfare services provider in Missouri.

Organizational Model

Without proper care, SED, abused, and neglected children are at high risk for a lifetime of residential care or incarceration. This is not only an unfortunate and unnecessary prospect, it's also an expensive one. Therefore, MACF's purpose is twofold: to properly and effectively treat SED, abused, and neglected children, and subsequently to reduce the long-term costs associated with these children growing up to become adults who may require extensive services. Owned by nine of Missouri's most respected children's services agencies, MACF is the only one of its kind in Missouri.

To successfully treat these children, MACF employs low caseloads, increased personalized care, multiple in-home visits per month, and the resources of more than 400 mental healthcare, healthcare, educational, and placement resources (both public and private). With so many resources at hand, MACF can offer wraparound care. Research has shown that this approach, which "wraps" the child in a customized, strategically designed set of treatments and resources, increases the chances that children suffering from neglect, abuse, and SED can live happy, productive lives in the community. Notably, the majority of expenses are at the front end of treatment, when they are most effective and most needed, and later taper off as the child is stabilized. …

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