ACS clinicians work to understand each child, identify their individual needs and strengths, and actively advocate for the child and their family by linking them to appropriate clinical services and educational resources. Our goal is to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline by providing the professional mental health services children need to improve their long-term health and well-being. We do this by providing children and families with access to direct, no-cost mental health care and assistance navigating the juvenile justice and child welfare systems.
ACS clinicians conduct comprehensive diagnostic evaluations and same-day emergency mental health and substance use evaluations of youth involved in the Juvenile Court. Our clinicians conduct in-depth interviews with the child and family, gather school and medical records, consult with their providers and educators, and prepare a comprehensive report of their findings. The report tells the story of the child and family in a new way, considering the many facets of the child’s life and their unique circumstances. A detailed formulation is developed, which informs a list of thoughtful and individualized recommendations intended to target the specific needs of the child and their family.
ACS provides individual and group treatment to youth who are court-involved or at risk for court involvement. Services are provided at no cost to families. Individual sessions focus on self-identified issues and helping the child develop positive ways to manage life stressors. The unique impact of groups is in the phenomenon of universality. To discover that they are not alone in their experience is a powerful catalyst to improving a young person’s overall mental health and well-being. Topics and areas of focus often include:
- Effective communication skills
- Dealing with anger and conflict resolution
- Understanding personal boundaries
- Identifying and managing emotions
- Stress management
- Discussing consent and peer pressure
- Safe and responsible use of social media
- Understanding impacts of alcohol and drugs
Education & Advocacy for Children and Families
ACS developed the E&A Program to help children access direct mental health care and assist families in navigating the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, enabling them to sustain positive life changes. The E&A Program includes the following services:
- Education of children and families about mental health concerns and the juvenile justice and child welfare systems.
- Advocacy for clients and assistance linking them with appropriate community services, such as medical care, mental health treatment, and in-home support for the family.
- Follow up, with clients and providers, to help ensure that the recommended services are in place.
Education & Advocacy for the Court and Community
ACS has close ties with court personnel, schools, and community providers who often turn to us with questions to help them better understand a variety of topics ranging from basic court procedures to how to access mental health services. We educate providers about the needs of high-risk children and advocate for enhanced services and support for families.
Student Training Program
ACS is a teaching clinic for behavioral health professionals. We maintain a robust and longstanding training program for graduate students, medical residents, and post-doctoral fellows from prominent academic institutions in social work, psychology, and psychiatry. Under close supervision, trainees learn to conduct comprehensive evaluations for youth involved in the court system. By the time they have completed their clinical internship or rotation, they have developed a deep appreciation for the complex needs of these youth. To inquire about our graduate level training opportunities, please email our Executive Director, Dr. Leah Kelly, at [email protected].