Darling Bill Helps Foster Kids Get the Care They Need
In Wisconsin, approximately 7,000 children are part of the child welfare system at any given time. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimate that 90% of children in foster care have been exposed to trauma.
Yet, despite the significant need for youth in out-of-home care to have access to mental health treatment, they have significant barriers to receiving the treatment they need.
Under current law, in order for a foster parent or out-of-home provider to access mental health information about a child in their care, they must first have obtain the written consent of the parent. This week, I testified with State Representative Pat Snyder of Schofield in favor of a bill we authored to make sure foster kids get the help they need.
According to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures, nearly 80% of youth involved with the child welfare system require mental health intervention and services due to developmental, behavioral, or emotional issues. The data also shows children in foster care utilize mental health services at five to eight times the rate of other Medicaid eligible children. Additionally, foster youth are more likely than children not in child welfare to use multiple psychotropic medications, like anti-psychotics, antidepressants, ADHD, or anxiety medications.
Our bill reforms this system by putting the needs of the child living in out-of-home care first. It allows health care providers to disclose a portion of the mental health treatment record for a child in out-of-home care if the health care provider reasonably believes it is necessary for the proper care of the child. This legislation is instrumental in ensuring that the individuals caring for our foster youth on a daily basis have access to information like diagnosis, treatment plan, and medication management plan.
As a state, we place the well-being of children living in out-of-home care in the hands of our foster parents, kinship care, and group homes. How can we expect these individuals to provide needed mental health care for our kids if they are not aware of the child's daily treatment plan or need for medication? Our bill will prioritize the welfare of the child living in out-of-home care.
I'm happy to report our bill passed out of the Assembly Committee on Mental Health unanimously. It is now available for a vote in the full State Assembly.