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States Engage Families to Improve Youth Mental Health

Alexandria, VA – Today, the Biden-Harris administration announced a boost of $11.4 million to expand statewide family engagement centers. Nearly three quarters of U.S. parents in national polls say they are worried their children might struggle with anxiety or depression at some point, and 69 percent of parents admit to being unsure what they should do if their children were to struggle with mental health. According to a new NASBE analysis, state leaders can foster children’s mental health by increasing families’ preparedness and awareness of available resources.

Twelve states and the District of Columbia require parent supports in schools, including family resource centers and family literacy and parenting skills programs, and 22 states have policies encouraging them, according to NASBE’s State Policy Database on School Health. The report points to ways states are increasing mental health awareness and connecting families to services.

  • During the pandemic, Hawaiʽi’s statewide family engagement center began providing more mental health resources to parents, including a webinar series for recognizing signs of depression in children and teens.
  • In 2018, the Utah State Board of Education developed curriculum for a state-mandated mental health seminar for parents, which covers mental health, depression, suicide awareness, and suicide prevention.
  • Washington launched the Children’s Regional Behavioral Health Pilot Program to investigate the benefits of having behavioral health navigators coordinate service delivery to students and families who are eligible for Medicaid.
  • In 2021, California added $3 billion in funding for establishing or expanding local community schools that can connect parents with health services and promote students’ well-being.
  • Rhode Island’s regional child opportunity zones provide full-service, school-linked centers where families can access education, health and social service programs, and supports and referrals to address barriers to student achievement.

The analysis also offers questions state leaders can ask to ensure students have the needed mental health supports at school and at home.

While schools are seeing an influx of federal and state dollars for more services to combat the youth mental health crisis, parents have often been overlooked as allies. “When supported with information, classes, and ongoing school engagement opportunities, parents can better identify signs of mental distress in their children and ways to increase their well-being,” write authors Celina Pierrottet and Joseph Hedger.

Read and share Empowering Families to Improve Youth Mental Health.

NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances. Learn more at


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