If you, or someone who works closely with your child, like your family doctor, the child’s teacher or school counselor, recommends you get a mental health evaluation and treatment for your child, ask them to tell you the specific reasons why they believe an evaluation is needed. This information will be helpful when you call for an appointment.
When you call
When you call you will speak to a mental health professional trained to gather mental health screening information. You will be asked some questions about your concerns for your child, the kinds of symptoms or behavior you see from your child, and how serious or urgent the conditions are. This is to determine if it is an emergency where the child is at immediate risk of harm to himself or herself, or a risk to others. If it is determined to be an emergency, the child is seen immediately. If it is not an emergency, the child will be scheduled for an evaluation within 14 days. If it is not an emergency, but also not something that can wait two weeks, please be sure to share that with the screener.
What you will be asked
You will be asked identifying questions about name, address, age, name of school and grade placement, your child’s doctor, and any other treatment your child has received. You will also be asked questions about other “systems” with whom you may be involved, such as Special Education, Department of Human Services, the Health Department or Children’s Special Health Services, or Family Court. If there are any particular legal arrangements involving your child, such as custody or guardianship arrangements, you will be asked to bring a copy of those legal documents to the initial evaluation. You will be asked to bring any other documents that will aid in the evaluation. For example, if the child is having school difficulties, a report from the school is helpful. You will also be asked insurance information.
Appointments – what to expect
You will be given an appointment for your child and yourself. It very important that you accompany your child to treatment appointments. This is for the child’s sense of safety and trust, and to ensure that the evaluator is able to gather the needed information on the present situation as well as the history of the child and family. It is also necessary that the person who has the legal authority to consent to services attend the appointment. If the child lives in a two-parent family, it is ideal if both parents can attend the evaluation.
You can expect the initial evaluation to take about 2 hours. You and the child are first seen by a person who completes registration, provides you with information about services and your rights as a consumer receiving services, and obtains authorization to exchange information with those involved in the care of your child, such as the doctor and school.
After this registration, you and your child are seen by a therapist, called a Child Mental Health Professional, who will do the mental health evaluation. They will spend time with all of you together, but often spend some time alone with the child during the evaluation process. They will ask many questions about the current concern, the family’s background, the child’s development and general health, school performance and social relationships. They will ask questions about the child’s behavior, thinking and moods. They will use all of this information to determine the child’s level of functioning and to make what we call a diagnosis. This diagnosis, along with the level of functioning, determines what types of treatment services are suited to the child’s condition. The therapist will share this conclusion with you and make plans with you and your child around the treatment recommendations. Follow-up treatment will occur within one or two weeks.
If the evaluation determines that your child does not have a mental health condition that requires community mental health services, the therapist will offer you information about other community resources that may assist you and your child.