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Division of Mental Health Services

Office of Children and Youth (OCY)

OCY Vision–The vision of the Office of Children & Youth is to assure that all Tennessee children and youth with emotional, behavioral, or mental health needs and their families have access to appropriate, high quality, and culturally responsive mental health services and supports.

OCY Mission–The Office of Children and Youth provides oversight of the statewide system of mental health services for children and youth and their families, and is responsible for statewide planning and program development. The Office provides policy guidance, technical assistance and support to child-serving agencies in the development, implementation and expansion of statewide programs and services for children and youth with or at risk of mental health disorders and their families.

Goals of the Office of Children and Youth:

  • Participate in the development and implementation of statewide Systems of Care
  • Promote System of Care values and principles across agencies and within funded programs
  • Eliminate fragmentation of services for children and youth
  • Identify and promote best mental health practices for children and youth based on empirical data
  • Promote equal access to mental health and other needed services across the state
  • Participate in the development of innovative, empirically driven services based on prevention, early intervention, and treatment models specific to the mental health needs of children and youth
  • Eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness through public education and training.
  • Eliminate racial, ethnic, cultural, and socio-economic disparities in access and treatment of children and youth with mental health needs.
  • Involve families, youth, and other stakeholders in the development of a comprehensive mental health agenda
  • Promote the parity of mental health services with physical health services through policy initiatives, interagency collaboration and program development
  • Educate the public about the prevalence of children and youth’s mental health needs and how to respond to those needs early and effectively
  • Participate in the development of a statewide plan for implementing a public health approach to infant and early childhood mental health
  • Provide effective, high quality early intervention and prevention services for children at risk of mental health disorders and their families
  • Promote policies and programs that support the healthy social-emotional development of infants and young children.

TDMHSAS endorses the System of Care philosophy, which is guided by a set of core values and foundational principles.

The system of care model is an organizational philosophy and framework that involves collaboration across agencies, families, and youth for the purpose of improving services and access and expanding the array of coordinated community-based, culturally and linguistically competent services and supports for children and youth with a serious emotional disturbance and their families. The system of care philosophy is built upon these core values and guiding principles:
The core valuesof the system of care philosophy specify that systems of care are:

  • Family driven and youth guided, with the strengths and needs of the child and family determining the types and mix of services and supports provided.
  • Community based, with the locus of services as well as system management resting within a supportive, adaptive infrastructure of structures, processes, and relationships at the community level.
  • Culturally and linguistically competent, with agencies, programs, and services that reflect the cultural, racial, ethnic, and linguistic differences of the populations they serve to facilitate access to and utilization of appropriate services and supports and to eliminate disparities in care.

The following represent the foundational principles of the system of care philosophy, that systems of care are designed to:

  • Ensure availability and access to a broad, flexible array of effective, community-based services and supports for children and their families that address their emotional, social, educational, and physical needs, including traditional and nontraditional services as well as natural and informal supports.
  • Provide individualized services in accordance with the unique potentials and needs of each child and family, guided by a strengths-based, wraparound service planning process and an individualized service plan developed in true partnership with the child and family.
  • Ensure that services and supports include evidence-informed and promising practices, as well as interventions supported by practice-based evidence, to ensure the effectiveness of services and improve outcomes for children and their families.
  • Deliver services and supports within the least restrictive, most normative environments that are clinically appropriate.
  • Ensure that families, other caregivers, and youth are full partners in all aspects of the planning and delivery of their own services and in the policies and procedures that govern care for all children and youth in their community, state, territory, tribe, and nation.
  • Ensure that services are integrated at the system level, with linkages between child-serving agencies and programs across administrative and funding boundaries and mechanisms for system-level management, coordination, and integrated care management.
  • Provide care management or similar mechanisms at the practice level to ensure that multiple services are delivered in a coordinated and therapeutic manner and that children and their families can move through the system of services in accordance with their changing needs.
  • Provide developmentally appropriate mental health services and supports that promote optimal social-emotional outcomes for young children and their families in their homes and community settings.
  • Provide developmentally appropriate services and supports to facilitate the transition of youth to adulthood and to the adult service system as needed.
  • Incorporate or link with mental health promotion, prevention, and early identification and intervention in order to improve long-term outcomes, including mechanisms to identify problems at an earlier stage and mental health promotion and prevention activities directed at all children and adolescents.
  • Incorporate continuous accountability and quality improvement mechanisms to track, monitor, and manage the achievement of system of care goals; fidelity to the system of care philosophy; and quality, effectiveness, and outcomes at the system level, practice level, and child and family level.
  • Protect the rights of children and families and promote effective advocacy efforts.
  • Provide services and supports without regard to race, religion, national origin, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, physical disability, socio-economic status, geography, language, immigration status, or other characteristics, and ensure that services are sensitive and responsive to these differences.

Stroul, B., Blau, G., & Friedman, R. (2010). Updating the system of care concept and philosophy. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development, National Technical Assistance Center for Children’s Mental Health.

For more information about the Office of Children and Youth, please contact Susan Steckel at (615) 253-8377 or Susan.Steckel@tn.gov.

Office of Children and Youth Links