Many Children With Emotional or Behavioral Conditions Do Not Receive Treatment or Counseling

Sound mental health prepares young people to meet the challenges of growing up and becoming productive and engaged adults. Most emotional and behavioral conditions emerge in childhood or young adulthood, and, if not identified and treated, can contribute to negative developmental, educational, and health outcomes throughout life.

Anxiety, behavior problems, and depression are the most common mental health disorders among children in the United States. Often, a child with one of these conditions has another at the same time, multiplying the challenges.

New data collected from parents and caregivers between 2017 and 2021 show that an estimated 12% of California children ages 3-17 had one or more diagnosed mental health conditions—attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety problems, behavioral or conduct problems, or depression—at the time of survey. Just over half of these children (52%) received mental health treatment or counseling in the previous year, while the remainder were reported as either not needing services or not receiving the services they needed. By comparison, nationwide, 17% of children had diagnosed conditions, and a similar share (53%) had received treatment or counseling in the previous year.

Among children with special health care needs (CSHCN)—who have or are at increased risk for a chronic physical, developmental, behavioral, or emotional condition and require health and related services of a type or amount beyond that required by children generally—the estimated prevalence of mental health conditions is more than three times higher than in the general child population, statewide and nationally.

Even with higher prevalence rates, many CSHCN do not receive mental health treatment. In 2017-2021, 58% of California CSHCN with emotional or behavioral conditions had received mental health services in the previous year, compared with 62% of CSHCN nationwide.

Children With Special Health Care Needs Receiving Mental Health Services in the Previous Year, Among Those With Emotional or Behavioral Conditions: 2017-2021

Pie charts showing, among children with special health care needs in California and the U.S. with emotional or behavioral conditions in 2017-2021, the share who had received mental health treatment or counseling in the previous 12 months.

To ensure that all children and their families receive the mental health care they need, regardless of special needs status, region, health insurance coverage, socioeconomics, race/ethnicity, or other factors, policymakers and other leaders can promote cross-sector strategies to improve timely access to adequate screenings and appropriate specialty providers. Decisionmakers should also prioritize coordinated, continuous care and education and assistance in navigating complex service systems, particularly for families with multiple needs.

Read more about children’s emotional health, characteristics of children with special needs, and access to services for children with special needs.

KidsData in the News

Former Bay Area Congresswoman Launches Foundation to Help Pull Women, Children Out of Poverty

Using the California Poverty Measure, an ABC7 News story cited KidsData on the number of San Mateo County children living in poverty.


Improving the Health and Wellbeing of Children and Youth Through Health Care System Transformation

The National Academies Committee on Improving the Health and Wellbeing of Children and Youth Through Health Care System Transformation—tasked with conducting a consensus study to examine promising mechanisms and levers for innovations that can be implemented in the health care system to improve the health and well-being of children and youth—will hold its second meeting March 29-30. Register to attend public sessions virtually.

Expanded SNAP Benefits During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Lessons Learned

The Institute for Research on Poverty will hold a webinar on April 5 examining the role of food assistance in the U.S. social safety net, how the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was adjusted to respond to public health and economic crises brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, assessments of those interventions, and how policymakers and practitioners can use lessons learned to improve the program’s efficacy and impact. Register to participate.

Good News

Family Dinner Routine More Common in Hispanic and Immigrant Families

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that in 2021, 87% of U.S. parents ate dinner with their children at least five days a week, up from 84% in 2019—a positive change likely related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among Hispanic and foreign-born parents, proportions were even higher, at 90% and 89%, respectively.

Recently Released Data

We recently released data about access to services for children with special health care needs, characteristics of children with special needs, children’s emotional health, and immunizations. See links to the latest here.

Posted by

This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 28th, 2023 at 10:04 am. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Post a comment/question: