Mental Health Screening of Children in Child Welfare


The needs of youth in foster care are complex, often including extensive emotional disabilities and disruptive behaviors requiring clinical therapeutic and psychopharmacological intervention. Despite the increasing availability and demand for well-validated assessments and interventions, it is estimated that 90% of public systems responsible for such youth do not deliver services that have an evidence base to support them. The successful incorporation of such assessments and interventions typically requires pervasive changes in existing policies, procedures, and practices. In response to a child welfare reform class action suit (Katie A. v. Bontá), Los Angeles County is attempting to implement changes to policy and practice that will ensure the implementation of a community-based mental health service delivery system for children engaged by Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (LACDCFS). The settlement of this suit obligates the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (LACDMH) and LACDCFS to a number of comprehensive reforms, including better identification of mental health needs, and prompt provision of individualized mental health services. To date, there are no evidence-based, rapid assessment, mental health screening tools that can be administered by non-mental health professionals for child welfare involved youth. The overall goal of this Academic-Community Partnership Pilot for Community-based Health Interventions is to facilitate collaboration between the USC School of Social Work, LACDMH, and LACDCFS to link and then analyze client screening, assessment, treatment, and service records to develop an evidence-based screening protocol for identifying child welfare involved youth in need of mental health care. The aims of this interdisciplinary and translational study include: (1) Testing the psychometric properties of two Mental Health Screening Tools (MHST) currently used by LACDMH and LACDCFS; (2) Testing whether reliable screening can occur when the MHST is administered by non-mental health clinicians when; (3) Determining if the MHST would be appropriate for inclusion in the California Evidence Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare (CEBC) Screening and Assessment Tools.


  • Dorian Traube, PhD
    (Principal Investigator)
  • Greg Lecklitner, PhD
  • Adrienne Olson, PhD
Data and Research Partners
  • August 2013 – August 2015
1150 South Olive Street, Suite 1400
Los Angeles, CA 90015
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