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 same-day emergency mental health and substance use evaluations and comprehensive diagnostic evaluations of court-involved youth. Our clinicians conduct in-depth interviews with the child and family, gather school and health records, and prepare a detailed report of their findings for the Juvenile Court. The report tells the story of the child and family in a new way, taking into account the many facets of the child’s life and their unique circumstances. A careful and detailed formulation is developed, incorporating family history, the child’s developmental background, their school performance over time, and a full review of their medical and mental health history. This formulation informs a list of thoughtful and individualized recommendations intended to target the specific needs of the child and their family.
ACS offers individual, family, and group treatment at no cost to families. Treatment sessions are focused on self-identified issues and helping the child or adolescent find positive ways to manage life stressors. Psychoeducational treatment groups help kids learn the skills needed to understand and cope with the challenges they face. Topics and areas of focus often include:
- Positive communication skills
- Dealing with anger and conflict resolution
- Boundaries and healthy relationships
- Coping with emotions
- Stress management
- Safety and social media
- Alcohol and drug use: education and dealing with peer pressure
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, court-involved children and advocate for enhanced services and support for families.
Student Training Program
ACS is a ‘teaching’ clinic. We maintain a robust and longstanding training program for graduate students, medical residents, and doctoral fellows from prominent academic institutions in social work, psychology, and psychiatry. Under close supervision, trainees learn to conduct comprehensive evaluations for court-involved youth and their families. By the time they have completed their internship or rotation, they have developed a deep appreciation for the complex needs of court-involved youth.