The Invisible Children’s Project (ICP) in Orange County, New York, is a nationally recognized program for parents with mental illness; it is one of very few programs available to families in which a parent has a mental illness. ICP provides home-based, family-centered case management services. The program is founded upon the assumption that mental illness does not preclude good parenting, and that all parents want to be the best parents they can be. The family rather than the individual is the unit of service. ICP emphasizes access to and coordination of multiple services to support the safety and functioning of all family members for as long as is necessary. The majority of referrals to ICP initiate from child welfare authorities at the Department of Social Services (DSS). ICP is often a mandated element in DSS service plans for parents who have lost or are at risk for losing custody of their children. The ability of ICP to address these child safety issues and achieve family preservation with respect to families involved with DSS has never been formally assessed. In addition to providing direct services to parents and children, ICP aspires to create systems change on a local, state and national level.
The program offers the following services:
- Family case management for adults with a psychiatric disability and their children. Minimum contact is two times a month in home. Actual minimum contact is once weekly in-home.
- Provides training, educational support and 24-hour crisis intervention. Supported housing available through HUD Shelter Plus Care grant; must be homeless.
- Respite program provides childcare for consumers who have a psychiatric disability and are part of the MHA. Respite by a trained childcare provider as needed for (but not limited to) therapy appointments, medical/psychiatric appointments, hospitalizations, work, school, support during mealtimes, give parent and/or child a break. There is a capped amount each month depending on how many families are utilizing this service. Each request is individually reviewed for approval based on service availability.
- Case managers advocate for appropriate services, forge relationships with other providers when needed, and accompany parents to school, court, and DSS meetings to provide support and to advocate for appropriate services and supports. Case managers make referrals to and maintain contact with professional legal advocates. Case managers make referrals and facilitate relationships with professional educational advocates for children receiving special education or in need of evaluation for school placement. Case managers attend IEP meetings, incorporate child services and needs into the overall family service plan and provide transportation if needed.
- Case managers provide support with getting participants connected to Care Coordination if they do not already have this support for medical and transportation to appointments. Case managers can assist with some transportation needs but only as an emergency basis.
- Clinical consultants provided by ICP for in-home clinical assessment during difficulty times. This is not ongoing in-home therapy, but assessment and brief therapy.
- Case managers and ICP In-home Consultants provide modeling, develop behavior management plans, and assist with parent-child relationship.
- ICP organizes local activities, picnics, dinner, crafts, socializing, a summer trip, and other recreational opportunities for the families involved. Transportation and funding are provided for families.
- ICP is a program of Orange County MHA, a comprehensive human service agency providing an array of mental health services to the public sector. Case managers work with multiple providers within MHA to access services quickly and maintain effective communication across providers.