Mental Health and Child Welfare



Florida’s mental health system lags behind the nation. Parents may recognize the need for services, but access is difficult and the services provided do not acknowledge the root of the problem. A “case management model” is currently used to address issues facing the family. This model creates a “to do” list to be completed by the parents and children in order to be reunified, rather than addressing the underlying issues that brought the family into the system. Moving the child welfare system from case management to a treatment-based model will provide the support families need to stay out of crisis.

It is critical to ensure that parents are able to receive the help they need because the environment in which children grow affects their development and emotional well-being as much as genetics. Children whose parents have mental health needs are at greater risk of developing emotional and behavioral difficulties than children of parents who do not have mental health diagnoses. Children with mental health needs are more likely to be expelled, less likely to be placed in a permanent home and more likely to receive restrictive or costly services such as juvenile detention, residential treatment and emergency rooms.


Read the full policy brief as a PDF here

Additional Resources:

  • Mental Health Issues of Parents in the Child Welfare System– National Adoption Information Clearinghouse
    Collection of studies finding that interagency collaboration between child protection and mental health services is necessary as untreated mental health disorders in parents can lead to poor outcomes for their children.
  • Systems of Mental Health Care for Youth in Foster Care– American Psychological Association Children, Youth and Families Office
    Significant amounts of youth in foster care demonstrate both short and long-term mental health problems, and need both appropriate services and access to treatment.
  • Kids’ Grades Can Suffer When Mom or Dad is Depressed– National Public Radio
    Parents’ untreated mental health disorders can have a negative impact on their children’s education, but with proper treatment, both the parent’s health and the child’s education can improve.
  • Children Who Have One or More Emotional, Behavioral, or Developmental Conditions– Kids Count Data Center, Annie E. Casey Foundation
    18% of children in Florida in 2011-2012 were estimated to have one or more emotional, behavioral or developmental conditions.
  • Florida Parents Fight to Get Seven Children Back– New York Daily News
    Florida’s child welfare system often employs a punitive approach when dealing with parents with mental illness, instead of collaborating with the family to provide needed services.
  • Denise Marzullo on Mental Health– The Children’s Campaign
    At the Candidates for Kids: First Coast Forum, Denise Marzullo, President & CEO of Mental Health America of Northeast Florida, educated a packed room of candidates on the current landscape of Florida’s mental health crisis.

Disclaimer: These links to third-party websites are provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only. They do not constitute an endorsement or approval by The Children’s Campaign or its affiliate organizations and partners.


Special thanks to Mental Health America and The Children’s Campaign for authoring the policy brief featured in this Candidate Connection.

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