The system of care that you are planning to join is committed to being youth-guided and family-driven. This means that you have specific rights in the care that you receive, as well as responsibilities, and can always tell others in a system of care how you are feeling about decisions that affect your treatment.
Other young people, as well as your providers, can help you understand the world of options open to you. They can also help you learn to express your feelings and share ideas with your system of care team.
Following are details about what you need to know, what you should be ready to ask, what you can expect, and what you can do in a system of care.
What Do Other Young People Have to Say?
Young people all across the country are going through challenging times just like you. Although every person is different and every situation is unique, there are some key points that young people across systems of care agree on. They want you to know that:
- You have the right to be viewed as a person capable of changing, growing, and becoming connected to your community in a positive way, no matter what has happened in the past.
- You have the right to ask for help.
- You can ask for help from an adult that you trust, like someone in your family, a system of care counselor or youth engagement specialist/coordinator, mentor, advocate, or friend.
- You have control over some things, even though it feels like everyone else is making the decisions. You can control who you ask to help you, using the "chain of command" and speaking your truths.
- You are not alone.
- You can't be discriminated against by your providers on the basis of your race, religion, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, or disability.
- Your family can choose providers who respect and value your language, culture, and spiritual beliefs.
- You have the right to develop treatment goals that are specific to you and to exceed any treatment goals that have been set too low for you.
- Providers must notify your family before they change or stop providing any service to you. Your family can ask for a written notice and explanation of the change if they have not been given one.
- You have the right to a future outside of a system of care and to services that focus on your successful transition.
- Your family can be involved in your experiences in a system of care. You have the right to stay connected to your family no matter what types of challenges you face.
- Your family can refuse, on your behalf, any service offered to you without being penalized — as long as such a refusal does not put anyone at risk for any kind of harm. If your family has concerns about services, don't be afraid to get help from a family advocate.
What Can I Ask?
Remember that you and your family have the right to ask questions about your services and supports. You and your family also have the right to be informed and be able to make decisions for your life based on accurate information.
Here are a few questions you might ask:
- How is my privacy protected?
- Who has access to confidential records?
- What information will my counselors tell my parents or guardian(s) and what information will remain confidential?
- How do I get help exercising my rights, especially if I want to file a complaint?
- What do I do and who do I talk to if I don't feel comfortable speaking up in front of other people?
What Can I Expect?
You will be surprised, in a good way, to know that there are people out there who have positive expectations of you. Other families, service providers, and agencies that work together through a system of care expect for you to have a fulfilling, healthy life and want to ensure that you play a part in changing it for the better.
You can expect:
- To be given a guide that explains your rights in your native language, or have access to a professional or advocate who speaks your language and can interpret and explain them to you;
- To be treated with courtesy, consideration, and respect, as you are expected to treat others with courtesy, consideration, and respect;
- To be viewed and treated as more than a statistic, stereotype, risk score, diagnosis, or label;
- To be viewed and treated as an essential resource, future success, and potential leader;
- To have service providers who work together and who share a united belief that the key to your success is through your strengths, talents, and interests;
- To be listened to and heard, and to listen to and hear others;
- To participate in services and supports that best meets your needs;
- To be assured that all written and oral, formal, and informal communications about you include your positive characteristics as well as your needs;
- To receive honest information about the decisions your family and system of care providers are making that affect your life, and to be included in those decisions;
- To experience success and to have support connecting previous successes to future goals;
- To exercise your rights without punishment in any form. If you experience otherwise, your family can seek help from an organized advocacy group or family-run organization; and
- To be told what confidential information will be disclosed to others and under what circumstances. Make sure you and your family review information before giving permission for anything to be released to another entity, such as a school, provider, or agency.
What Can I Do?
A system of care focuses on giving you many opportunities and ways of being involved in your care and changing your community. Take them! In the past you may have been told that you couldn't do something because of your mental health needs, or because of a label or stereotype — never offered many chances to show what you can do.
In fact, there are many things that you can do, such as:
- Know and understand your rights and responsibilities that apply to the services you are using.
- Know that you are capable of giving back now and becoming a young leader, regardless of your past experiences or mental health needs. Previous difficulties can be motivators to be a strong advocate for the future.
- Go to school and participate in school, spiritual, cultural, and other activities.
- Learn from your mistakes and know that mistakes don't mean failure.
- Respect others' privacy.
- Be clear about what you are experiencing, what you need, and how you feel.
- Be straightforward and truthful.
- Read everything carefully. Be sure that you understand and really do agree with any document that requires your signature or activities that imply your permission.
- Resolve disputes promptly by speaking first to the person most immediately involved. If that doesn't solve the problem, speak to your service coordinator or the provider's supervisor before you file a complaint.
- Request help from advocates who know the rules, understand the system of care, and have experience with the providers who are working with you and your family.
- Keep scheduled appointments whenever possible. If you need to cancel, call ahead of time.
- Talk with an adult you trust about any type of abuse or neglect you experience from your biological parents, foster parents, other caregivers, or any other person.
- Use your experiences to grow and mature as a young adult.