DGS is Delaware’s largest provider of non-residential mental 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 figure out challenges and strengths; they help you work through a difficult situation; 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 with the highest of needs. They’re usually at risk for out-of- home placement such as a hospital, residential treatment center, or a correctional facility. A team of DGS clinicians provides care in the child’s home and community whenever it is needed and they’re available 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Care includes behavioral health needs for the children, medication management, individual therapy, family therapy, and school and community support. The goal is to get all systems in place for a family—school, church, neighborhood, and friends—to help the family to keep progressing and as a resource in times of crisis. Eight months is the usual duration of service and then the family typically steps down to a lesser 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 child psychologists, clinical social workers, and master’s level therapists 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. In the beginning, counselors create an individualized treatment plan with specific goals. On average, an entire course of treatment last for about four months. In addition to the weekly sessions, counselors connect with the children’s parents/guardians and family members to provide services and also 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 the most difficult 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 psychiatric staff can determine if medication is necessary, prescribe it, and then follow up frequently to watch for side effects and make sure the medicine is helpful. Our psychiatrists and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners also may help the children in our care in other ways such as with testing and diagnosing.
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, is the answer. It’s a short-term treatment that has consistently worked wonders in this country and abroad for more than 30 years. In PCIT, both parent and child are treated together. Parents get more effective parenting skills, children’s behavior improves, and together they have a better relationship. PCIT is typically for children aged two to seven with moderate to severe behavioral problems.
School-Based Counseling Services
Since we know children can carry the weight of trauma and stress throughout their daily lives, DGS therapists are also at work in schools. Our therapists listen, guide, encourage, problem-solve, and advocate with students to improve school attendance, classroom behaviors, and academic performance. Our therapists also help teachers by to equipping them with the tools to recognize and address effects of trauma that might be misunderstood as misbehaving, acting out or simply being “bad”.
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.