Douglas County, Kansas

Mental Health Awareness Month: Advocating for the Wellness of Children in the Child Welfare System

May 14, 2024

Mental Health Awareness Month: Advocating for the Wellness of Children in the Child Welfare System

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a crucial time to shine a spotlight on the often ignored and intricate mental health needs of children and youth within the child welfare system. This critical topic is frequently pushed aside due to the complex nature of the systems involved, the confidential nature of cases, and the uncomfortable discussions it invites.

Statistics reveal that a staggering 80 percent of children in foster care suffer from significant mental health issues stemming from experiences of complex trauma, broken family relationships, and constant upheaval in living situations. For those in the general population, accessing necessary mental health services can be daunting — but for children entangled in the child welfare system, it is even more challenging.

In 2018, a lawsuit was filed against three Kansas state agencies (Department for Children & Families, Department for Aging & Disability Services, and Department for Health & Environment). The resulting agreement to settle the lawsuit seeks to revamp the broken systems responsible for providing mental health services to these vulnerable children. While some progress has been made, the state's performance has either declined or remained stagnant in meeting important requirements from the Settlement Agreement. These agencies struggle with overwhelming workloads and limited budgets, making it difficult to implement necessary changes. As a result, many are left wondering if these efforts will truly improve access to vital mental health services for children in foster care.

The mental health of these children is a complicated and ever-changing issue that cannot be solved with a quick fix. It will require not only statewide government-level changes but also a united community effort to make a lasting impact. So what can you do to support the wellbeing of these children in Kansas? Educate yourself on the problem, become an advocate for change, and offer your support to organizations and individuals who are dedicated to working with this vulnerable population in your community everyday — now more than ever before they need our collective help and support.

Who works with foster children

If you need help identifying (some) of the people doing the work, here is a list: 

What can you do?

If you need help identifying what you can do for them, here are some ideas: 

  • Say “thank you!” The work is difficult and often thankless. A simple thank you is often not just welcome but needed.
  • Send a gift card for coffee, tea, lunch, groceries —anything useful. They are busy doing all sorts of work, and a break is lovely. And none of them make the salaries they deserve, so a gift card to help meet needs is wonderful. 
  • Support organizations that work with children involved in the child welfare system or foster care. Please consider making a donation of any amount. At Douglas County CASA we are working to build capacity so that we can provide a volunteer advocate for every child. That growth depends on the generous donations of individuals and businesses that make up between 70 and 80 percent of our annual budget. Other nonprofits are in very similar positions. We encourage you to be generous with your resources and time. 
  • Share what you know and learn.  Engage others in learning more and supporting these individuals and agencies. We encourage you to use your voice to spread the word and do your part to create a brighter future for these children in need. 

Links to other resources: 

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Change a life with CASA

At any given time, there are 165 children from Douglas County in the child welfare system due to abuse and neglect. Help us help those children who are still waiting for a CASA volunteer.