- Case Name
- Ocean S. v. LA County
Government systems are denying children equitable access to basic health care in violation of their civil and human rights. Children’s Rights is working to transform systems and break down the barriers to timely and adequate physical and mental health services for children.
Access to physical and mental health care is vital for children’s healthy development and well-being. But children who are Medicaid eligible or involved in foster care, juvenile or criminal legal, and federal immigration systems are less likely to receive regular, proper medical, dental, and mental and behavioral health services. This violates basic legal protections and places children at a higher risk for chronic and potentially lifelong physical and mental health conditions.
He missed all those years…when he should have been learning social skills and how to cope. I just hope this lawsuit gets up there and makes a difference. It’s a little too late for us, but hopefully, it’s not too late for others.”
Children in low-income families are far more likely to become involved in government systems, with LGBTQ+, Indigenous, and Black children disproportionately represented. They tend to have poorer health outcomes than children with more resources, including higher rates of asthma, diabetes, and other chronic diseases, as well as an array of mental health conditions. Child refugees fleeing poverty, crime, and discrimination in their home countries experience debilitating trauma, exposing them to multiple risk factors for poor mental and physical health.
Many children experience adverse events in their lives before entering government care. Once there, the health care they receive is often sporadic, crisis-oriented, and poorly accessible. The trauma suffered by children while in government care leads to or worsens their health, and the ongoing issues of separation and loss, placement insecurity, systemic complexities, and discrimination exacerbate these problems.
For decades, government systems of care have failed to adequately meet children’s health care needs, and US lawmakers have repeatedly turned a blind eye to caring for and respecting children’s right to health care. At a time when child mental health has become an issue of pressing national concern, children in crisis are too often met with law enforcement instead of a trained mental health professional. This practice has resulted in the criminalization of countless youth.
Children’s Rights’ advocacy has led to significant health care reforms to systems that serve children, including court orders requiring state systems to provide children with greater access to health care services, maintain oversight and controls over the use of potentially dangerous psychotropic medications, and better track whether children are receiving the medical services they need. Our mental health litigation, informed by long-standing relationships with child mental health experts, has resulted in dramatic improvements for children, including increased access to trauma-informed behavioral and mental health care services and timely mental health screenings.
Sign the #HealthyKidsHealthyMinds Pledge
Pledge to advocate for the mental health needs of our children
The nation’s mental health crisis is impacting more children than ever before, particularly children from low-income families, communities of color, and children who identify as LGBTQ+. Rates of mental health disorders are soaring. Emergency room visits by children suffering from anxiety, mood disorders, and self-harm have jumped sharply. And teen and young adult suicide has risen by almost 60% in the last ten years.
Children’s mental health problems are real and common, but they are also treatable, especially when caught early. When children have access to intensive community- and home-based mental health care services their quality of life improves, their emotional and behavioral health strengthens, and they’re more likely to stay with their family. But we need advocates like you to help put pressure on governments to right this wrong.
Stop Criminalizing Children, Invest In Their Healing
Call on Policymakers to Stop Prison Pipelines and Fund Community Services
In communities across the nation, police – not a trained health professional, are the first to respond to a child’s mental health or social crisis. This is especially true for Black and Latinx youth, resulting in the criminalization of countless youth, exacerbating existing mental health symptoms, and contributing to the creation of a school-to-prison pipeline.
Join us in demanding the removal of law enforcement from institutions meant to serve our youth and calling for an investment in community mental health services that will allow young people to develop and heal. This is a wrong we have to right, and it begins with you.
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