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Clin Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2015 Apr;20(2):261-75. doi: 10.1177/1359104513514066. Epub 2013 Dec 26.

Mental health screening and early intervention: clinical research study for under 5-year-old children in care in an inner London borough.

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South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK.
Southwark Primary Care Trust, London, UK.
Institute of Health Services Research, Exeter, UK.
Kings College London, London, UK.


Typically the social-emotional development or mental health of under 5-year-old Children in Care (CiC) is not routinely assessed and there are few published data in the UK on the prevalence of difficulties for these children. Our hypothesis was that there could be a significant level of unidentified and unmet need within this group. A screening procedure was developed and piloted in a 12-month study assessing both child factors and the developing relationships between children and their caregivers. Previous screening studies have shown that recommendations for interventions are not reliably expedited. An intervention component was incorporated to address this and minimise delay in the children and their carers receiving support. Close inter-agency collaboration was integral to the establishment, implementation and high level of participation in the study. The screening proved acceptable to the majority of birth parents and caregivers, with 94% uptake of participants. In the year prior to screening only 10% of under-fives coming into care were identified as having difficulties in contrast to 67% of children in the screening cohort. The brief interventions offered were taken up in three-quarters of cases, leading to increased referrals on and access to mental health services for these children.


Screening; children in care; intervention; mental health; under 5-year-old

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