NLCMHA received a federal block grant administered through the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) to develop a System of Care (SOC) for children with Serious Emotional Disturbance (SED).

A system of care is a comprehensive spectrum of mental health and other necessary services, which are organized into a coordinated network to meet the multiple and changing needs of children and their families. It will be a change in services, how they are organized, and how they are financed:

  • Community-oriented – Respecting community differences and linking together the many individuals and organizations interested in the well-being of children, adolescents, and their families;
  • Planned and deliberate – Carefully building an infrastructure to maximize the positive, effective impact of all community services;
  • Employs up-to-date knowledge about effective practices – Respecting family choices, culture and abilities, and monitors its effect, adapting constantly to new information about impact and satisfaction;
  • A System – Many components, each bringing something of value and wherein all participants hold a common goal of effective care for children and families.

SOC is the very definition of COLLABORATION… sharing responsibilities, sharing risks, sharing resources, and sharing rewards.

The concept is a framework and guide, not a prescription or a “model” to be replicated. The SOC is an organizing value base and framework.

SOCs involve a shared vision and values/principles, e.g., service planning is family-centered and youth-driven; parents and youth participate at all levels of planning; an emphasis is placed on prevention and early identification/intervention.

SOCs are based upon a clear definition and understanding of the population to be served, they are data-based, and developing a SOC is multi-faceted, and involves multi-level changes.

We are planning a SOC that includes the necessary structure to implement it, manage and evaluate it over time, and to direct changes, when needed. SOCs change and evolve as factors change, such as funding streams, family needs, state-of-the-art evidence-based practices, etc.

More information on system of care change planning is available in the paper, Applying a Theory of Change Approach to Interagency Planning in Child Mental Health, by Mario Hernandez and Sharon Hodges. A detailed primer on system of care planning is available in a Technical Resource Guide developed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Another helpful resource is Family Guide to Systems of Care for Children With Mental Health Needs Booklet.


  • Wraparound is a planning process that is designed to create an individualized plan to meet the needs of children and their families by utilizing their strengths.
  • Wraparound is an established vehicle for delivery of services and supports to children and families with severe and multiple needs and risks being served by multiple agencies.
  • Wraparound refers to an individually designed set of services and supports provided to children with serious emotional disturbance or serious mental illness and their families that includes treatment services, personal support services or any other supports necessary to maintain the child in the family home.
  • Wraparound services are to be developed through a team approach that includes the child/youth, parent(s) or guardians, other services providers/agencies, schools, extended family and friends and others that the child and/or family identifies that work together toward a common mission.
  • Wraparound services are a particularly effective approach in serving children served by multiple systems.

It’s easy to see how the wraparound service model is directly in line with the definition of System of Care.


  • First and foremost, it brings a research-based, proven model of practice to our counties for dealing with seriously emotionally disturbed youth who are involved in multiple service systems (DHS/CMH/Courts) and provides seamless services to them
  • It will greatly reduce those kids who “fall through the cracks.”
  • If we can show that the System of Care works with one of the most difficult populations to serve, the applications to ANY other population are endless.
  • The model is extremely resource- and time-efficient.
  • In today’s funding atmosphere, the following characteristics of programming are mandatory: collaboration, research-based practice, performance-based outcomes.

All of these are inherent within the System of Care model.

We are organizing our efforts locally by pairs of counties: