Last May, Samantha Collins’ drug use, legal problems and dealings with the Connecticut Department of Children and Families forced her to strike a bargain with the agency. In return for allowing social workers to come into her home three times a week to help her stay off drugs, improve her parenting and learn the practical skills needed to function as an adult, DCF would not remove her children. The 26-year-old Somers mother of 2- and 7-year-old boys entered Family-Based Recovery, a program created 10 years ago by DCF, the agency better known, perhaps, for separating families than working to keep them together. Family-Based Recovery, or FBR, is an example of DCF’s dramatic reversal in philosophy and practices, after years of a policy approach based largely on removing children thought to be at risk and placing them in congregate care facilities. “‘Pull and ask later,’” said Kristina Stevens, a former DCF social worker who is now administrator of the agency’s Clinical and Community Consultation and Support Division, which includes a fast-growing array of in-home treatment programs.
As recently as 2011, nearly 1,500 children and youths were separated from their families and were living in 54 group homes and other treatment centers in and out of Connecticut.
Observing the brain activity of preschool children with autism can help predict their response to treatment for the disorder, according to a study by Yale University researchers. The finding is groundbreaking because it can help match children with a treatment that will work for them, said Pamela Ventola, senior author of a study published today in the journal Translational Psychiatry. “We hope that we can use this information to better develop treatments for autism and better match kids with autism to a treatment that’s going to work for them,” said Ventola, an assistant professor at the Yale Child Study Center. In the study, researchers worked with 20 autistic preschoolers for 16 weeks, for seven hours each week. During sessions, children underwent pivotal response treatment, a well-established behavioral treatment for autism that dates to the 1970s and is play-based.
Parents are increasingly worried about the negative effects of technology – sexting, in particular – and its effects on their children’s health, according to a national poll. “Parents are seeing [sexting] happen more with their kids or kids’ friends,” said Dr. Brian Keyes, a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist who sees patients through various non-profits including the Children’s Center in Hamden and NAFI Connecticut in Hartford. “Parents get concerned, and rightly so, as kids start to get involved in any sexually related material.”
Sexting – sending sexually explicit text, photo or video messages via mobile phone or other electronic devices – also is gaining more attention in the media, bringing it to the forefront of parents’ minds, said Keyes, who also is on the clinical faculty at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and the Yale Child Study Center. In the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, adults ranked sexting as the sixth health concern facing children. Forty-five percent of adults listed sexting as a top concern, the poll released in August reported.
Connecticut has made significant gains to create a system that better identifies and treats children suffering from traumatic stress in the year since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But ensuring children have equal access to mental health services regardless of where they live or their insurance status remains elusive. “The impact of trauma on children is a public health issue. It’s happening all over the state and it’s not just high-profile events such as Sandy Hook,” said Robert Franks, vice president of the Child Health and Development Institute, noting that 25,000 children per year experience significant traumatic events. “Children are exposed to all sorts of trauma in their homes and communities every day.
Proposed changes to the official autism diagnosis are raising concerns among advocates and families, with many fearing the new criteria will lead to a loss of services and a sense of identity for some high-functioning individuals with special needs. “There’s no question some people (on the autism spectrum) will lose services,” said Dr. Fred Volkmar, an internationally renowned expert on autism and director of the Yale Child Study Center. Volkmar was the lead author of a study that found that only 45 percent of those currently diagnosed with higher functioning forms of autism would meet the new criteria. Sarah Reed, director of advocacy and family services for the Connecticut Autism Spectrum Resource Center in Wallingford, predicted “chaos in the coming months. Families are confused and concerned that their loved ones with autism will not qualify for education and support services under the new criteria.” At issue are proposed criteria for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual fifth edition (DSM-5).