iCARE - Center for Behavioral Health, Family Advocacy Program
Identifying Children and Responding Early
Supportive, Collaborative, Preventive Behavioral Health in Elementary Schools
VISION: That all Middletown children will enjoy optimal emotional and behavioral health, and that both children and families will receive the support they need to make this possible.
MISSION: The early identification of behavioral health issues in elementary age children who may benefit from the provision of evidence-based, culturally responsive early interventions in three settings: school, home, and community.
Children who participate in iCARE have improved overall functioning and reduced severity of behavioral problems as measured by the Ohio Scales. Both teachers and parents report high satisfaction with the initiative’s efforts. Teachers have rated iCARE students as being less depressed, having fewer problematic behaviors, better attendance, improved self worth, better interpersonal relationships, better self-direction, motivation and overall well-being.
The three key partners in the iCARE initiative are Middlesex Hospital Center for Behavioral Health, Family Advocacy Program, Middletown Public Schools, and the Ministerial Alliance, which is an association of 23 African American churches. iCARE currently operates at two pilot sites: Bielefield and Spencer elementary schools in Middletown, CT.
The iCARE initiative, currently in its final year of funding from the CT Health Foundation, was developed by the Middletown community for two primary reasons: 1) behavioral issues that begin in elementary school, without adequate intervention, many times continue into the later years, and 2) children of color are less likely to get needed mental health services and more likely to become involved in the juvenile justice system later in life.
HOW DOES iCARE ASSESS AND INTERVENE?:
— A Universal Screen administered at the start of each school year to identify at-risk students. (Children may also be referred into the iCARE system by school staff, family, Ministerial Alliance, primary care provider, or other service provider.)
— Regular use of the School Climate Data Team by the three partners as a communications hub to provide a coordinated approach to data analysis (e.g., attendance, discipline, universal screen), early identification of issues, provision of school- and community-based interventions, and review of student and family progress.
— The Talking and Learning Center (TLC) for in-school responses. The iCARE’s TLC Interventionist helps to de-escalate crises, assists students with problem solving and conflict resolution, and increases students’ pro-social and self-regulation skills.
— Linkage to community resources for families through a Wraparound approach provided through iCARE’s Services Coordinator (LCSW) and Community Interventionists, who work together to engage families in creating a strength-based, culturally-relevant action plan and connecting them to the services, resources and natural supports they need. Follow up is provided to see if progress is being made or if other interventions are needed.
— Building trust between the family and school and between the family and behavioral health provider. Research has found that the lack of trust is a major reason why families do not seek assessment and early intervention for their children. Both the Services Coordinator and Community Interventionists are charged with this important task.