Considerations in System of Care Expansion: Expanding Early Childhood Systems of Care
Efforts to develop systems of care through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Children’s Mental Health Initiative (CMHI) have evolved over time. Initially, the focus was primarily on school-age and older children. A shift occurred based on the work of the Children’s Upstream Services program in Vermont, the first federally funded early childhood system of care development effort launched in 1997. Additional grants were funded from 2005 through 2010 focusing on children ages 0-8 and their families.
The experiences of these grant sites, shared in an early childhood learning collaborative, led to significant changes to the CMHI to create a better fit for early childhood systems of care. The work of the grantees helped to identify the critical system changes necessary to serve the early childhood population and laid the groundwork for efforts to expand early childhood systems of care. This technical assistance tool outlines five core strategies essential to making the systemic changes necessary for expanding the systems of care approach.
The strategies for making the systemic changes necessary to expand the systems of care approach span the areas of policy and partnerships, services and supports, financing, workforce development, and strategic communications. Lessons learned from early childhood systems of care have demonstrated that each area requires a somewhat different approach when applied to early childhood.
Five Core Strategies for Expanding Early Childhood Systems of Care
- Implement policy and partnership changes.
- Develop or expand an array of services and supports based on the systems of care philosophy.
- Create or improve financing strategies.
- Implement workforce development and training strategies.
- Generate support among key stakeholders through strategic communications.