Researchers Study Role of Local Advocacy Groups in Mental Health Care for Youth

Effectiveness of working relationships among family organizations and children's mental health clinics: Follow-up to a national survey

Investigators affiliated with the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Youth Mental Health Care, conducted two waves of a study of local mental health advocacy organizations that support families of children and adolescents with mental health needs. The first took place in the fall of 2006 and the second in the fall of 2008. Both were expansions of the MacArthur Foundation ChildSteps project.

The analysis focused on the size, structure and financing of these organizations, as well as their role in shaping mental health services offered in their communities.

Key Findings

  • Wave 1 of the study interviewed staff at 225 family advocacy organizations:

    • Some 24 percent were not affiliated with a national advocacy organization
    • Some 48 percent of local advocacy groups received at least half of their revenue from private sources, such as individuals and businesses, foundations and charitable organizations
    • Local mental health advocates said the most important factors in delivering high-quality mental health services were:
      • Availability of services
      • Family's relationship with the therapist
      • Use of appropriate diagnostic assessments
  • Wave 2 of the study interviewed a random sample of staff at 120 of the family advocacy organizations surveyed in Wave 1, 40 in each of three categories: no working alliance with a clinic, some working alliance and a strong working alliance.

    • Some 25 percent of the "no working alliance group" identified in Wave 1 were no longer in operation at Wave 2
    • More than 40 percent of the organizations had no paid staff members
    • Two-thirds of the organizations reported their primary function was direct service as opposed to advocacy and linking families to service providers