Children’s Aid Chosen for Grant to Address Student Mental Health Needs

To help address the crisis of youth mental health affecting our state and nation, Children’s Aid and Family Services has been selected as one of 15 statewide service providers by the Department of Children and Families to establish New Jersey Statewide Student Support Services. Children’s Aid is joining forces with four local mental health agencies to provide much-needed prevention and clinical services to students and their families.

“This is an initiative to create a system of support to children in every school district in Bergen County to provide equal access to prevention services,” says Ellen Elias, Executive Vice President of Community Engagement and Prevention at the agency.

Operating as the Bergen County regional hub, Children’s Aid is partnering with CarePlus NJ, West Bergen Mental Healthcare, CBH Care and Vantage Health System for support in clinical services for 79 school districts in the county. In the process of conducting a resource assessment of each school based on their needs, Children’s Aid will also be hiring a Hub Director and Prevention Consultants to support students in all facets of care. “Each school district is different, so if one requests support for addiction education or life skills education, we will assess their requests and seek to provide them with programs not already in place,” says Ellen.

The services in this support network will be administrated through the hub in three tiers:

  1. Universal supports such as school assemblies and informational programs
  2. Group-based prevention and mentorships
  3. Clinical intervention for comprehensive therapeutic support

Ellen reports that they are currently talking to school superintendents and counselors about the program that is set to start in the fall.

“We are giving them information, laying the groundwork and engaging them so when they are back in session in September, they will be fully informed.”

An important factor guiding the initiative is putting together an Advisory Board which will consist of two segments. One will be comprised of local social service agencies that already provide resources and education on topics such as the prevention of bullying, teen suicide, and substance misuse. The other segment will be made up of students, parents, and community members involved with youth and their activities on a daily basis, such as school nurses and librarians.

“One of the most important parts of this process is ensuring that the Advisory Board is representative of the communities that we’re serving,” says Ellen. Engaging as many people as possible who work closely with students gives the program the best chance of success.”

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