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Three recent additions to CARF’s International Advisory Council part of larger expansion of child and youth focus over past decade

By Brad Contento, corporate communications, CARF International

In the past few months, three child and youth advocacy organizations accepted invitations to join CARF’s International Advisory Council (IAC). The Association of Children’s Residential Centers (ACRC), Youth M.O.V.E.  (Motivating Others through Voices of Experience) National, and National Association for Children’s Behavioral Health (NACBH) join the growing contribution of the children and youth services industry in CARF standards.

I spoke with CARF’s managing director of Child and Youth Services (CYS), Leslie Ellis-Lang, about the ACRC, NACBH, and Youth M.O.V.E. National and what the expansion of child and youth representation on the IAC means for CARF and this population.

“The line has blurred between the behavioral healthcare and child welfare sectors,” says Ellis-Lang who joined CARF in 2009 to lead the CYS accreditation area. “This is not unlike the recent thinking between the merging of behavioral health and physical health. Providers and associations in both behavioral health and child welfare are realizing they can’t be as siloed as they’ve been, and that they have to be equipped to address all needs of children and youth, not just some. Gaining the distinct insight from these three new IAC members will help ensure that CARF’s standards continue to support and reflect this trend.”

The need to address the whole child when serving this population was ingrained into CARF’s CYS accreditation area during its creation. Before CARF’s first CYS standards manual was released in 2005, CARF already had specific standards to address services for children and youth in several other manuals, including Behavioral Health, Employment and Community Services, and Medical Rehabilitation. Those standards were used as the basis for the new manual while processes and programs specifically related to child welfare were added in. The aim was to provide standards that focus on the whole child in the context of family and community, and allow children and their families to transition easily through a system of care.

The area’s growth in a few short years prompted not only the hiring of Ellis-Lang as CARF's managing director of CYS, but also the first additions of children-specific organizations to the IAC, such as the Children’s Home Society of America, Child Welfare League of America, and National Organization of State Associations for Children. The three most recent invitations to the IAC in late 2015 and early 2016 come as Ellis-Lang has been pushing for further diversity of perspectives from the child and youth arena. The goal is to further integrate the various sectors of child and youth service into the CARF standards for children.

“The ACRC’s main focus is quality in residential care for children and youth,” explains Ellis-Lang about what the first of the new IAC members brings to the table. “Right now, the current trend in the field is pushing services away from residential care. Of course children should be with families and in the community, but there are some children and youth who need residential care when it’s the only intervention that will offer them safe treatment and services. We need to remain vigilant providing quality standards in this area.” ACRC’s work advocating for residential care, including proper medication of youth, has been instrumental for the field and will be a great value as CARF standards stay up-to date in these areas.

The second of the new IAC members, Youth M.O.V.E. National, strengthens a vitally important tenet to the standards creation and revision process: Involving persons served. Youth M.O.V.E. is a national, youth-driven organization that supports equal participation from youth and individuals who have direct experience in child welfare, behavioral healthcare, and juvenile justice. Its mission states it is “devoted to improving services and systems that support positive growth and development by uniting the voices and causes of individuals who have lived experience in the various systems.”

“CARF has been working with Youth M.O.V.E. National since 2011 to provide representation from young people on our International Standards Advisory Committees (ISACs)*,” says Ellis-Lang. “In a reciprocal manner, I served as an advisory member on their board while they developed protocols for youth peer support specialists. Their inclusion in the IAC will further ensure that youth always have a seat in the standards development and review process.”

On the merits of the third new IAC member, NACBH, Ellis-Lang continues, “NACBH’s participation in the IAC will help keep CARF standards current and future-focused for children and youth needing behavioral health services.” NACBH is an association whose members are primarily from multi-service treatment agencies that provide services in a variety of settings, including mental health and substance use treatment, child and family services, and accredited educational programs. It is a strong advocate for responsive public policy, particularly in Medicaid, child welfare, and TRICARE. NACBH also takes a proactive role in educating its members on current issues for the field. “Although they consider themselves small in number, they are mighty,” adds Ellis-Lang.

Ultimately, the collective benefits of the input provided by these three new IAC members will be reflected in CARF’s quality standards. Their association with CARF represents a collaborative relationship with the professional field, community resources, providers, and youth, which will continue to be a focus of CARF’s CYS accreditation area in the coming years.

*An ISAC brings together leaders and representatives in the field to explore relevant issues and give CARF guidance and information on the creation and revision of standards.

Leslie Ellis-Lang, managing director of the Child and Youth Services accreditation area, joined CARF in 2009. Leslie's career spans more than 30 years in the behavioral health field with an emphasis on services for children and adolescents. Most recently, she was the behavioral health services administrator for an organization providing services in 32 Florida counties. A licensed marriage and family therapist, Leslie holds a master-of-science degree in counselor education from Northern Illinois University.

(Child and Youth Services)

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