How to Respond to Parent Questions
By Amy D’Addario, MS, CSW, SAC, Connected Community Wellness Screen Site Coordinator, On-Site Clinician at Samaritan Counseling Center
In the same way we monitor a child’s physical wellness, it is important to monitor mental wellness. Mental wellness enables children to think clearly, develop socially, and learn new skills. It is essential. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends annual mental health screening for all school-age children, a service Samaritan provides through Connected Community Wellness Screen in 11 area school districts. Some parents question the value of their child’s mental health screening; therefore, let’s consider the layers of meaning and value in this important initiative:
- Parents are vital part of this process. They are excellent observers (and reporters) of children’s feelings and behaviors. For elementary-age children, we invite parents into the Wellness Screen process by asking them about their children’s mental and emotional development. Parental involvement helps everyone understand and feel more confident about the process.
- We do our job well when we help prevent or lessen problems because young people get help early. It’s almost like working ourselves out of a job, and that’s okay! Most screening is preventative because regular screening helps children and families feel more comfortable about discussing mental health and asking for help or advice when they need it.
- Wellness screening may seem unnecessary, especially when a parent does not have concerns regarding their child(ren), yet we know most parents are reassured that their child’s mental health is typical. However, approximately 20-25% of children will experience a mental health concern—that’s about five children in a classroom of 20. The good news is most mental health concerns are very treatable, especially with early identification.
- If a young person is already connected to a medical or mental health provider for a mental health concern, the Wellness Screen is still valuable because it can serve as an annual check-in and used to track progress.
- The Connected Community Wellness Screen team has gone beyond school-based screenings to help area school districts develop more comprehensive school-based mental health. When a child needs help, a masters-level clinician will contact the family to learn more and make recommendations, then follow up with the family to offer information and support.
- We are here to help young people and families, no matter the result of a child’s Wellness Screen. After all, parenting is hard work, and it is difficult to know what is “normal.” Samaritan’s Connected Community Wellness Screen Program makes mental health clinicians or case managers available to answer parent questions at any time of year—and that’s at the heart of what it means to be Community and Connected.
Amy D’Addario, MS, CSW, SAC
Amy D’Addario is the screening site coordinator and an on-site clinician with the Connected Community Wellness Screen program for the Neenah Joint School District (HOPE), among seven additional school districts. Amy has more than 15 years of experience serving children, youth, and families in a variety of systems including child welfare, coordinated services, juvenile justice, adult corrections, and private practice. Amy has also managed several county and statewide initiatives focused on mental health screening and services.