Document Type

Long-term Community Adaptation of Children and Youth Receiving Residential Mental Health Services

Publication Date



Faculty of Social Work


Children and youth who have participated in children’s mental health services often continue to live with a variety of emotional and behavioural challenges after service involvement has ended (Cameron, de Boer, Frensch, & Adams, 2003). A key consideration in understanding the long term community adaptation of these children and youth is the ongoing management of emotional and behavioural challenges and the impact these challenges have in the daily lives of youth and their families. Several standardized measures of mental health, physical health, stress, and quality of life were used to assess parental and youth functioning in the life domain of health and well being both prior to service involvement and at follow up.

Data were collected about youth who had been involved with children’s mental health residential treatment (RT) or intensive family service programs (IFS), designed as an alternative to residential treatment. Data were gathered about youth functioning at program entry, discharge, 12 to 18 months after leaving the program (Time 1 Follow Up), and 36 to 48 months post discharge (Time 2 Follow Up). Parent-reported measures were used to assess youth functioning prior to service involvement and at follow up. Admission and discharge information was gathered from program records.

Parents and guardians were asked a series of questions assessing youth behaviour and well being. For example, parents/guardians indicated how often youth experienced difficulty regulating behaviours, such as fidgeting, arguing, or following directions. Parents/guardians were also asked about how often youth displayed depressive behaviours such as showing little interest in usual activities or appearing unhappy, sad, or depressed. Most of the information about youth mental health was obtained from parents and guardians. Youth were purposefully not asked any direct questions about their mental health or any mental health treatment they received. Instead, youth were asked to indicate how happy or unhappy they felt about their general health and could speak freely about any details they wished to share in this area. Parents were also asked a series of questions about their own well being including physical and emotional health, quality of life, and daily functioning.