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The ECO-MACH framework and protocol for managing children with mental health issues in alternative care facilities
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A child that is mentally healthy develops psychologically, emotionally, creatively, intellectually and spiritually (Dwivedi & Harper, 2004). Implicit in the successful development of children is their mental health. The needs of children with mental health concerns (MHC) are often not addressed in alternative child care facilities, due to a number of different factors, two of which are the mainstreaming requirement of the White Paper for Social Welfare (1997), requiring such children to be managed in CYCC’s and, the sometimes insufficient knowledge and skills of child care workers, social workers and other staff to adequately manage such cases. The need for a specific mental health management protocol was therefore identified. This article introduces the reader to a multi-disciplinary ecological child care management protocol (ECO-MACH) for application in a child care facility that we developed in a research project. The protocol is designed to identify and adequately assess children with mental health concerns and address their specific intervention needs and monitor their progress during their stay in a child care facility. Design and development methods and specifically qualitative focus groups were utilized, whilst the results of the empirical study were triangulated with the literature. In addition to giving a practical, useful structure to an otherwise unstructured, random approach to child mental health care, the protocol paves the way for more rigorous testing and more efficient assessment practices in the child care setting. This protocol will be implemented in a child and youth care center, and its utility as a standard procedure will be assessed in a follow-up study. Indirectly it should contribute to the enhancement of the mental health of children at this center. Practitioners will consequently be better equipped to manage children with mental health issues.
- Faculty of Health Sciences