CASSP is an acronym for Child and Adolescent Service System Program, a comprehensive system of care for children and adolescents with or at risk of developing serious emotional disturbance and/or substance use disorders and their families. This program ensures that services are developed in collaboration with the child/adolescent, family, mental health system, the school and all other agencies involved in the child’s or adolescent’s life.


It is a meeting designed to help individuals, families, agencies and systems determine which resources/supports for youth/adolescent and families should be explored or recommended. It is a process which attempts to addresses mental health services for children and adolescents with or at risk of developing severe emotional disorders and their families. The CASSP process includes family members, the youth/adolescent, service providers, and all other parties that are involved with or have a relationship with the youth and the family. CASSP offers recommendations for services, allows for open communication and dialogue and partnership with the team members. It provides education about community based resources and a strength-based approach with six well defined principles.

CASSP Core Principles:

Services that are provided are to be developed and delivered following the principles in a simultaneous manner:

•Child-centered - Services are planned to meet the individual needs of the child, rather than to fit the child into an existing service. Services consider the child’s family and community contexts, are developmentally appropriate and child-specific and also build on the strengths of the child and family to meet the mental health, social and physical needs of the child.

•Family-focused - Services recognize that the family is the primary support system for the child. The family participates as a full partner in all stages of the decision-making and treatment planning process, including implementation, monitoring and evaluation. A family may include biological, adoptive and foster parents, siblings, grandparents and other relatives, and other adults who are committed to the child. The development of mental health policy at state and local levels includes family representation.

•Community-based - Whenever possible, services are delivered in the child’s home community, drawing on formal and informal resources to promote the child’s successful participation in the community. Community resources include not only mental health professionals and provider agencies, but also social, religious, and cultural organizations and other natural community support networks.

•Multi-system - Services are planned in collaboration with all the child-serving systems involved in the child’s life. Representatives from all these systems and the family collaborate to define the goals for the child, develop a service plan, develop the necessary resources to implement the plan, provide appropriate support to the child and family, and evaluate progress.

•Culturally Competent - Culture determines our world view and provides a general design for living and patterns for interpreting reality that are reflected in our behavior. Therefore, services that are culturally competent are provided by individuals who have the skills to recognize and respect the behavior, ideas, attitudes, values, beliefs, customs, language, rituals, ceremonies, and practices characteristic of a particular group of people.

•Least restrictive/least intrusive - Services take place in settings that are the most appropriate and natural for the child and family and are the least restrictive and intrusive available to meet the needs of the child and family.

For more information, please contact:

Cheryl Farkaly, CASSP Coordinator


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