"We are clearly facing a crisis," she
said. But Shaw also says that change is in the air. Gov.
Blagojevich's creation of the Children's Mental Health Partnership
to assess needs and recommend action on this issue and passage of
the Children's Mental Health Act of 2003 have mental health
professionals feeling more optimistic than they have in years.
Shaw outlined the partnership's
recommendations for interested academics and mental health
professionals at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign last
week in a session sponsored by the Chancellor's Cross-Campus
Initiative for Promoting Family Resiliency, the School of Social
Work and the Champaign County Mental Health Board.
An advocate of early intervention, Shaw
stated, "We need to include early support for children's social and
emotional well-being, not just treatment services."
At one meeting she attended, Shaw said
she had played a 911 tape of a child pleading for help as her
stepfather threatened her mother and siblings.
"Four policemen listened quietly in a
corner, and at the end of the tape, one spoke up and said, 'That was
me. I was nobody's problem. Nobody noticed. But I went to school
every day with my stomach in knots, barely able to function.'"
Shaw stressed that success in school is
directly related to how well children are doing socially and
emotionally. "This is an essential underpinning for later success in
The 2003 legislation requires schools
to develop social and emotional learning standards along with other
educational standards and assess kids regularly to see that the
standards are met. Shaw argued that early intervention is
cost-effective, not just one more task for teachers to take on.
"Research shows that when these
problems are addressed, absenteeism decreases and grades go up," she
[to top of second column
in this article]
"And catching problems in early
childhood and at school age means we don't face bigger problems when
kids become teenagers," she said.
"In our media-driven society, children
are often maturing past themselves," she added. "That means that
their social and emotional development isn't keeping up with all the
knowledge that they're taking in. And that knowledge may not even be
Shaw wants intervention and treatment
that engages families and caregivers. "We need to have family-driven
plans. Many of the adults in our mental health system are parents,
but we don't deal with that. We need to address their needs for
their children's sakes as well as their own."
Other recommendations by the
partnership include building a qualified and adequately trained work
force, developing programs and research that reach across cultural
barriers and into both urban and rural areas, and exploring various
Medicare waiver options to increase funding in Illinois.
"As we worked together on these
recommendations, we saw agencies spend hours together figuring out
ways to pool money so services could be more effective and
efficient," she said.
She added that the partnership has a
long road ahead of it as it works to put these recommendations into
action. The partnership hopes to join forces with many groups across
the state that are also committed to addressing children's mental
said it all goes back to the needs of the children. "Think back to
that 911 call. What will it take to break the cycle in that family?
What will break the cycle for the girl or for a boy in that family,
so extreme stress and violence aren't part of the way they raise
[University of Illinois news