System of Care for Children and Youth

In 2020-2021 Cortland County's Children and Youth System of Care partnered with the New York State Office of Mental Health to conduct an Action Planning Workshop that assessed our current framework for providing services, gaps in services, priority areas of focus, and developed an action plan. Since then, we have been working diligently to coordinate with other community providers in attempt to meet the current needs of the community's children and youth.

Group of Children looking up

A system of care is: A spectrum of effective, community-based services and supports for children and youth with or at risk for mental health, substance use, child welfare, juvenile justice, medical, developmental, social or other challenges and their families, that is organized into a coordinated network, builds meaningful partnerships with families and youth, and addresses their cultural and linguistic needs, in order to help them to function better at home, in school, in the community, and throughout life. 


Systems of care are

  1. Family driven and youth guided, with the strengths and needs of the child and family determining the types and mix of services and supports provided. 
  2. Community based, with the locus of services as well as system management resting within a supportive, adaptive infrastructure of structures, processes, and relationships at the community level. 
  3. Culturally and linguistically competent, with agencies, programs, and services that reflect the cultural, racial, ethnic, and linguistic differences of the populations they serve to facilitate access to and utilization of appropriate services and supports. 


Systems of care are designed to

  1. Ensure availability of and access to a broad, flexible array of effective, evidence-informed, community-based services and supports for children and their families that addresses their physical, emotional, social, and educational needs, including traditional and nontraditional services as well as informal and natural supports. 
  2. Provide individualized services in accordance with the unique potential, strengths, and needs of each child and family, guided by an individualized, “wraparound” service planning process and an individualized service plan developed in true partnership with the child and family. 
  3. Deliver services and supports within the least restrictive, most normative environments that are clinically appropriate. 
  4. Ensure that families, other caregivers, and youth are full partners in all aspects of the planning and delivery of their own services and in the policies and procedures that govern care for all children and youth in their community, state, territory, tribe, and nation. 
  5. Ensure cross-system collaboration, with linkages among child-serving systems and mechanisms for system-level management, coordination, and integrated management of service delivery and costs.
  6. Provide care management or similar mechanisms to ensure that multiple services are delivered in a coordinated and therapeutic manner and that children and their families can move through the system of services in accordance with their changing needs. 
  7. Provide developmentally appropriate services and supports that promote optimal social-emotional outcomes for young children and their families in their homes and community settings. 
  8. Provide developmentally appropriate services and supports to facilitate the transition of youth to adulthood and to the adult service system as needed. 
  9. Incorporate or link with mental and physical health promotion, prevention, and early identification and intervention to improve long-term outcomes, including mechanisms to identify problems at an earlier stage and behavioral health promotion and prevention activities directed at all children and adolescents. 
  10. Incorporate continuous accountability mechanisms to track, monitor, and manage the achievement of system of care goals; fidelity to the system of care philosophy; and quality, effectiveness, and outcomes at the system level, practice level, and child and family level. 
  11. Protect the rights of children and families and promote effective advocacy efforts. 
  12. Provide services and supports without regard to race, religion, national origin, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, physical disability, socio-economic status, geography, language, immigration status, or other characteristics, and services should be sensitive and responsive to these differences.


Adapted from Stroul, B.A. and Friedman, R.M. (September 2011). Issue Brief: Strategies for Expanding the System of Care Approach, Child, Adolescent and Family Branch, CMHS, SAMHSA, US Department of Health and Human Services.