Pennsylvania makes it easy for people to access community resources through the Pennsylvania Health and Human Services web portal. This web portal is a one-stop online guide to services, programs, agencies and organizations throughout Pennsylvania.
Families and workers can locate specific information about each agency, including the services each provides, contact information and service hours. Services are divided into four categories: Children, Families, Adults and Older Adults. The site also lists Helpline numbers for anyone who wants to talk to someone for help. The website is: http://www.helpinpa.state.pa.us/HelpinPA.
Other useful websites focus on specific issues. One of them is for Mental Health Services. In Pennsylvania mental health services are administered through county mental health and developmental services (MH/DS) program offices. A county MH/DS office serves as a referral source for families. The county offices determines a person’s eligibility for service funding, assesses the need for treatment or other services and makes referrals to appropriate programs to fit treatment or other service needs. MH/DS has a website that supplies connections for a variety of topics that might be of interest to families dealing with mental health issues. To access this information and find your county MH/DS office visit: Pennsylvania Association of County Administrators of Mental Health and Developmental Services at: http://www.dhs.pa.gov.
Another website focuses on advocating and serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. The Arc of Pennsylvania is a community-based organization with 32 chapters serving the entire state. The services provided may include early intervention, transition planning, respite care, supported living or transportation. The services are tailored to meet the individual’s needs. To locate a chapter in your area go to: http://www.thearc.org/find-a-chapter.
Another resource for Pennsylvania families who are providing permanency to a youth under 18 are the SWAN Post-permanency Services. These services consist of case advocacy, respite and support group units. Through the case advocacy unit workers can help families identify appropriate resources for their family. These services are family driven, meaning the family works collaboratively with the worker in identifying their needs, establishing goals and selecting appropriate activities. This is accomplished through an assessment with a worker from an agency that is part of the Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network, SWAN, who is trained in dealing with permanency issues. Families can access these services by calling Helpline at 800-585-7926.
Since adoption adds another layer of complexity to any issue, families and workers need to identify professionals who are adoption competent. Taplink, a parent support group, developed the following questions to help families decide if a resource is appropriate for their family:
- How long have you been conducting therapy?
- How many adoptive, foster or kinship families do you treat on a regular basis?
- What specialized training have you had in adoption and/or foster care?
- Do you include family members in therapy?
- If my child does not respond to treatment, how will you decide when to change or modify the treatment?
- As my child ages, will any symptoms change? Will the response to treatment change?
- Will you coordinate my child’s treatment with our family doctor or pediatrician?
- How do you see yourself interacting with other professionals, e.g., caseworkers?
- How will I know that my child is responding to the treatment and getting better?
- Do you accept insurance? If so, what kinds?
- How, and to whom, will you report progress?
- If I were in crisis, would I be able to reach you?
Families need to feel safe and reasonably comfortable with the service provider who works with them. The family should also feel respected and understood by the professional, that their questions are answered and their goals are addressed.