DGS is Delaware’s largest provider of non-residential behavioral health services for children and families.
24-Hour Community-Based Crisis Response
Our skilled crisis intervention clinicians come to wherever you are, whenever you need it, to provide counseling and support. Using evidenced-informed risk assessments, they work with you to figure out challenges and strengths; they help you work through a difficult situations; calm down anyone who is angry, upset, or out of control; make sure everyone is safe, and create a plan for a path forward, providing short-term support.
Our statewide youth crisis response services are available 24-hours a day and 365 days a year for children and teens (ages 2-18) who:
- Have identified to be at risk of harm to themselves or others
- Have experienced recent trauma
- May be experiencing mental health symptoms
- Are seeking help for managing emotional and/or behavioral health problems
Call 1-800-969-HELP (4357)
Family-Based Mental Health Services
The Family-Based Mental Health Services program (FBMHS) at DGS provides care for children and families with the most complicated behavioral health needs. Children who benefit from FBMHS are usually at risk for out-of-home placement such as a hospital, residential treatment center, or a correctional facility. For children receiving FBMHS, a team of DGS clinicians is available 24 hours a day and seven days a week to provide care in the child’s home and community. Care includes behavioral health treatment for the child, medication management, individual therapy, family therapy, and school and community support. The goal of FBMHS is to help the family develop a strong set of supports including school, church, neighborhood, and friend –to help the family become healthy and strong and to serve as resources in times of crisis. FBMHS usually lasts about eight months after which the family typically steps down to a less intense type of therapy.
Outpatient /Therapeutic Support for Families
Our statewide Outpatient/Therapeutic Support for Families (OP/TSF) program is for children and teens who need more than one counseling session per week to make the necessary changes in their young lives. These are children who haven’t been successful in traditional outpatient therapy or who are transitioning out of a higher level of care, such as a residential treatment center or a hospital. Care is primarily provided out of the office— in the family’s home, the child’s school, a community center, and/or anywhere the family feels comfortable. OP/TSF clinicians work in teams of two. The lead therapist spends about five hours per week of intensive therapy meeting both with the family and the child—sometimes separately and sometimes together. Another clinician meets with the child for about five hours per week and is focused on reinforcing positive behavioral change. The timeframe for this level of care is usually nine to 12 months.
Outpatient counseling is also called “talk therapy” or just “therapy.” It’s a process of courageous conversations with a trained counselor that can help children, teens, and their parents or guardians in various difficult situations. Some children need to heal from the effects of a traumatic event, abuse, neglect, or family breakdown. Others need help to overcome anxiety, depression, or another kind of mental health concern. Still more are facing bullying, attention issues, or other behavioral problems in school.
Our clinicians are focused on helping children to heal and learn constructive ways to deal with problems or issues. Typically, children and teens see their therapist once a week for a 50-minute appointment. At the beginning of treatment, the counselor and the child work together to create an individualized treatment plan with specific goals. On average, an entire course of treatment lasts about four months. In addition to the weekly sessions, counselors connect with the child’s parents/guardians and family members to provide services and consult with the child’s school as needed.
Each child’s therapist is part of a multi-disciplinary team of clinicians offering consultation, advice, and review of each case. For more complex problems, psychiatric services are added as an important part of treatment. When children have extremely difficult problems to overcome, medication can help with mood and behavior and put children back on track more quickly. Our psychiatry staff can determine if medication is necessary, prescribe it, follow up frequently to make sure the medicine is helpful, and watch for side effects. Our psychiatry staff also may help the children in our care in other ways such as with diagnostic testing.
Parent-Child Interaction Therapy
Most every parent has experienced a young child’s occasional temper tantrum. But when meltdowns, testing limits, throwing things, hitting, and shoving begin to make life impossible, it’s time for an intervention. Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), now available statewide through DGS, can help. It’s a short-term, evidence-based treatment in use for more than 30 years. In PCIT, both parent and child participate in treatment together. As parents learn and practice effective parenting skills, children’s behavior improves; together, the parent and child have a better relationship. PCIT is typically for children ages 2-7 with moderate to severe behavioral problems.
School-Based Counseling Services
School-based services help improve students’ attendance, classroom behavior, and academic performance. Our school-based clinicians listen, guide, and encourage students while advocating on their behalf. Clinicians facilitate individual, group, and family counseling sessions, and collaborate with teachers and school staff to develop the tools to recognize and address effects of trauma that might be misunderstood as misbehavior, acting out, or simply “being bad”. Our school-based clinicians view themselves as one component of a larger team comprised of families, teachers, administrators, and support staff working together to meet students’ behavioral health needs.
Therapeutic Classroom Support Services
In addition to being in schools, DGS clinicians are also in some special classrooms. These therapeutic classrooms are for students who aren’t functioning well in a typical school setting. It may be trauma, attention issues, behavioral or conduct problems, an Autism spectrum disorder, depression, anxiety, or some combination of these that is causing distress in the classroom for a student. Our therapists are there for them with evidenced-based, structured, therapeutic support so that children can realize success, both in their learning and relationships, and ultimately a brighter future.
Community-Based Trauma Support Services
Our community-based trauma support services are available where children are when they’re not in school, such as Boys and Girls Clubs, and PAL Centers. Here, our therapists get to know the children and provide evidenced-based mental health services to them and their families on an as needed basis. Therapists consult with the child’s school as needed and work closely with the center staff to instill a trauma-informed environment. Our approach is designed to have a multiplier effect—with each child we serve and each adult we train, we make an impact on every child. Ultimately, Delaware, as a whole, will become more trauma-informed.
Currently, trauma support services and therapeutic classroom support services are provided in Boys and Girls Clubs in Smyrna, Dover, Dagsboro, Laurel, Love Creek, and Rehoboth Beach; PAL Centers of New Castle County; Indian River, Seaford, Caesar Rodney, Milford, Woodbridge, and Christina School Districts ; Kingswood Academy; Polytech High School; Academy of Dover; Kumba Academy; Frederick Douglass Elementary School and Carver Academy.
Three New Services for Delaware Youth!
Universal School-Based Screening
On average, the delay between the onset of mental health symptoms and treatment initiation is 11 years. Universal school-based screening is a powerful tool that shortens this delay by proactively identifying students in need of additional behavioral health supports.
Beginning in the 2023-24 school year, Delaware Guidance Services (DGS) anticipates working with Community Education Building (CEB) partners to screen students using a curated selection of evidence-based behavioral health assessments. DGS staff would work one-on-one with identified students to learn about specific needs, connect their families with resources, and develop a plan for additional therapeutic services when necessary. DGS is excited to partner with CEB to implement universal school-based screening, a model endorsed by the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Research Council, the Institute of Medicine, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Youth Crisis Bed Program
Located in Lewes, DGS’ Crisis Bed Program will soon serve up to six youth at a time, ages 7-17, who are experiencing a behavioral health crisis and who require 24/7 supervision for an average length of 3-7 days.
This program fills an existing gap in Delaware’s continuum of youth behavioral health services. Youth crisis bed services are extremely scarce in New Castle County; in Kent and Sussex Counties, they are non-existent. For the 4 in 10 Delaware youth who currently must travel outside of their county of residence to access crisis bed services, geographic distance is just one barrier to quality treatment. Currently, facilities that offer youth crisis bed services are large institutional settings that serve a range of ages, from children to adults. DGS’ Crisis Bed Program will improve therapeutic outcomes by reducing geographic distance from the child’s home, increasing rates of familial participation in treatment, and providing services in a small size setting specifically tailored to the unique needs of children and youth.
DGS is honored to have been selected as the sole provider for Delaware’s new Helping Hands Community Awareness Program (HHCAP).
Beginning next year, DGS will partner with early learning centers in 13 Delaware zip codes identified as having disproportionately high incidence of substantiated child abuse and neglect. Clinicians will work directly with students, parents, and caregivers to increase protective factors and promote resiliency. Early prevention is more critical now than ever before in recent history, and children ages 0-5 are especially responsive to intervention efforts given the scale of the social and emotional development that occurs during this pivotal time. Through the HHCAP, DGS will fill a critical gap in school-based early prevention services across Delaware.