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Check-Up Time: 14 Ways to Help Kids
Texans Care for Children

June, 2012

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Texans Care for Children
Alex is one of 350,000 Texas kids believed to struggle with mental health concerns.
Alex is one of 350,000 Texas kids 
who cope with mental illness. 

What Do Texans Who Care Really Think? Let Us Know!
To do our work effectively, we count on you. That's because speaking out and speaking together is what leads to changes that improve the lives of Texas kids. 
Let us know what's on your mind, taking just a few minutes out of your day to provide feedback: give your input by taking our survey
Best of the Web
A round-up of children's issues in the news and on the blogs
After months of reports of violence in state-run, secure facilities, the executive director of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department announced yesterday she will retire from her post. Right now, some state leaders are signaling that they want to put more kids into adult prisons, which would be a major step backwards for our state. (Evidence continues to mount that it's dangerous for youth to be put in adult corrections). Click on the headline for our statement on what Texas really needs to do in juvenile justice to keep more kids safe and reforms on track. 
Solve the Weight of the Nation
Texas comes up repeatedly in the new documentary Weight of the Nationreleased by HBO this month and available free online. The Institute of Medicine has a new report and infographic that gets to the heart of why obesity is complex butconquerable. It includes 5 focused solutions for healthier communities.
What is Texas Medicaid?
For many Texas children, the health care program, Medicaid, is simply a lifeline. Yet some state officials have taken to calling the program names, even scapegoating it, in ways that obscure its real value for Texas families, children's hospitals and our economy. A new video from our Texas Well and Healthy project, following the launch of a new "My Medicaid Matters" education campaign n Texas, explains what Medicaid means for every child and all Texans: a healthier future. Please share it!
Calls for Abuse Prevention 
Children can be kept safe in their homes, and child abuse and neglect rates brought down, but the state of Texas has to make kids more of a priority, recent news coverage has shown. In 2011, child abuse prevention funding and other Child Protective Services investments met steep budget cuts. The San Antonio Express-News and other outlets have reported on the fallout, so this is a great time for Texans to let their lawmakers know not to compromise safety for children.
Resource Spotlight: A Check-Up on Children's Mental Health in Texas
"I pray that giving over wardship of our son to the state for mental health treatment does not become the only path for treatment." These words, in an email to us from the mom of young Alex (right), point to a jarring reality for some Texans with mentally ill children. When they don't have access to affordable treatment for their sons and daughters, families are told about an option of last resort: to give over custody of their children to the state, becauses the juvenile justice system and Child Protective Services must treat the children in their care.

Allowing families to come apart over mental illness is one way Texas has failed to get children's mental health right. In a new check-up report, our mental health policy associate Josette Saxton examined a total of 14 indicators of how our state responds to children's mental health needs. This includes for the 1 in 5 Texas children living with mental health concerns and 1 in 20 who cope with challenges so severe that they get in the way of school, family relationships, or day-to-day functioning. 

Besides helping kids get care while they remain with their families, here are a dozen more ways to build lifelong resilience for more children:
  1. Get serious about treatment: Every other state in the country does a better job of getting children with a diagnosed mental health problem the services they need.

  2. Insure kids better: One reason kids go without: our state's high rate of uninsured children. Many also have spotty insurance that doesn't cover mental health fully.

  3. Make sure mentally ill students can stay in school: Many kids with emotional trouble get kicked out of class. Educators need support to work with these children.

  4. Keep up what works to prevent suicides: Teen suicide rates are falling, and the state need to continue and expand the strategies that have proven successful.

  5. Improve screenings for developmental and mental health: Too often, doctors miss the chance to detect problems early, but this is when they're easiest to address.

  6. Build up our mental health workforce: A real shortage of professionals who can help kids needs shoring up.

  7. Send in the school counselors: Schools say counselors make up the frontlines for behavioral health. Too many counselors, however, get saddled with other responsibilities.

  8. Train school staff: Many teachers want to build their skills to promote behavioral health.

  9. Identify which students need help: Schools, just like doctors, have a role in identifying kids with emerging mental health challenges.

  10. Invest in mental health: Texas trails every other state in public investments in mental health services.

  11. Ensure children have access to the public mental health system: Texas has improved kids' access to public services recently, but many kids remain left out.

  12. Curb prescriptions of potentially dangerous drugs: Over-medication remains a threat for many children with mental illness.
To find out more about these strategiesand to see the 14th way to address children's mental health, which is the one Texas is already doing really wellread the fullCheck-Up on Children's Mental Health in Texas.
What You Need to Know about the Texas Council on Children and Families
When good ideas to solve persistent problems for children meet a road block, too often the the problem comes down to miscommunication and lack of coordination within the state. Many public agencies serve families with children, and these agencies can achieve more when they figure out ways to work together. 

In 2009, to achieve just that goal, Texas created a Council on Children and Families. The Council reduces the fragmentation of services across state programs and brings top agency leaders together to work toward solutions for children they all serve. A new white paper on the council was written for Texans Care for Children as part of a policy research project at UT's LBJ School of Public Affairs.
To learn about the role of the council and its charge in Texas, read A Lone Star State Collaboration Success: The Texas Council on Children and Families.
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