May is National Foster Care Month. The recognition month brings awareness to the issues foster kids face. The month also highlights the work done to help children who enter the foster system. This year’s theme is “Strengthening Minds. Uplifting Families.” The theme highlights the need to take both a holistic and culturally responsive approach to support the mental health needs of foster youth. In Sacramento County, there are dedicated staff members who uplift families by making sure youth in Sacramento County’s Child Protective Services (CPS) get access to health care. Staff members also help make sure foster youth have access to mental health services.
Within Sacramento County’s health services departments, many different resources are dedicated to providing the best care possible to children in Child Protective Services. These services include Emergency Response, Informal Supervision, Hearts 4 Kids, Courts/Permanency, and Psychotropic Medication. These programs cover a broad number of services that collaborate with social workers to ensure that children at risk have a strong advocate for their health and well-being.
Public Health Nurses in the Emergency Response program provide direct services to families as well as consultations with Social Workers. These Public Health Nurses conduct assessments, provide interventions and make referrals for services. Public Health Nurses work with families to make sure developmental issues are addressed.
Informal Supervision serves children with open cases who remain with their biological parents. The goal of this program is to keep children in their homes with their biological parents if possible.
Hearts 4 Kids is a program that visits children and their siblings at their foster-care placement. During this visit, the Public Health Nurse conducts assessments, provides guidance, and links families to resources.
The Public Health Nurses in Courts/Permanency provide assistance for children placed in foster care. The Courts/Permanency nurses interview biological families to get health history and then focus on access to care and help coordinate primary, dental, and specialty care if needed. They collaborate with CPS and advocate for the child until the case is closed or the child is adopted.
If children in foster care are prescribed psychotropic medications, they are followed by a nurse who ensures the medications are court approved and collaborates with the Social Worker and foster parent to monitor for side effects in the home.