December 21, 2004

Virginia Parents turning to Foster Care for Help

Parents in the State of Virginia are sending mentally ill children to foster care for help

Almost one of every four children in Virginia's foster care system is there because parents want the child to have mental health treatment, a report commissioned by the General Assembly states.

The report commissioned by the General Assembly shows that 2,008 of the 8,702 children in foster care, or nearly one-quarter, appeared "to be in custody to obtain treatment." The study, which used data from the Department of Social Services, is based on children in foster care as of June 1.

    "The main problem is that there is inadequate access to mental health treatment ... and it tends to be extremely expensive if parents are able to receive it," said Raymond R. Ratke, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services, who led the work group that published the report.

    Many of the children suffer from schizophrenia, severe depression or bipolar disorder. Private insurers and HMOs do not fully cover the cost of caring for these illnesses. In many cases, the families make too much money to be eligible for Medicaid.

    The report, which was published this month, reveals the extent of a problem that has been familiar to state and local officials for years. In the 2004 legislative session, lawmakers asked that the issue be studied.

    The report's recommendations to the General Assembly include increasing funding for the Comprehensive Services Act, which is designed to provide money for mental health services for children, and helping families access private insurance for mental health services.

    The state estimates that 62,000 young people suffering from mental illness, behavioral disorders and emotional problems are not being served adequately by the commonwealth.

Additional Information: (I don't know if the full report will be posted here, but it should be)

Source: Washington Post


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