California is home to more than nine million children and youth under the age of 18, about 13 percent of minors nationwide. A decade ago, a troubling chasm existed in the mental health services offered to the state’s most vulnerable children and youth: those who were either in foster care, or in danger of entering foster care.
Most were not screened and treated for mental health needs, state officials now admit. And those who were treated often received services in the confines of a hospital bed, away from any shred of normalcy and support present in their lives.
Katie A. v Bonta, a class-action lawsuit filed in 2002, was meant to change all that. It yielded two settlements – one with the state and another with Los Angeles County. Both required all counties to provide coordinated, home-based services for at-risk children and youth with serious mental health challenges.
Court jurisdiction in the case will end in December for the state, and perhaps for Los Angeles as well. The Chronicle presents this three-part series, a look at what has been accomplished under Katie A. and what challenges persist.
John Kelly is the editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.