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 The SOC Approach


The National Technical Assistance Center for Children’s Mental Health is dedicated to increase the capacity of Communities, States, Tribes, and Territories, to improve, sustain, and expand Systems of Care and the services and supports provided within them to improve the lives of children, youth, and young adults with or at risk for mental health challenges and their families. The SOC Approach Curriculum was developed to assist communities, states, tribes and territories understand the What, Why and How of System of Care Expansion. 

This curriculum was adapted from the Expanding the System of Care Approach Toolkit authored by Beth Stroul, M.Ed., Joan Dodge, PhD, Sybil Goldman, MSW, Frank Rider, MS and Robert Friedman, PhD.

Note: Please make sure you are enrolled in each of the following courses to be able to access the course material. Also please be aware that this course is not fully supported on mobile devices and is not available via the edX mobile application.

Available Modules

Module 1: The What and Why of the System of Care Approach

What is the System of Care (SOC) approach and why should it be expanded?

Module 1 explains the basics of the SOC approach and provides an overview of the need for SOC expansion through relaying specific statistics on the insufficiency of children’s mental health services and historical problems that have resulted in these insufficiencies. In addition, the module surveys the contemporary situation and the distribution of need levels across the populace.

After stating the case for SOC expansion, this module elaborates on what does and does not constitute the SOC approach, as well as identifying the benefits for children, youth, families and communities. Highlighting the necessity of cooperation, this module also provides information on the many partnerships required for successful SOC implementation.

While this module functions as an overview, the concluding slides refer learners to more in-depth resources that cover the System of Care Concept and Philosophy, the Return on Investment, the Evidence Base for SOC, and Trauma-informed Care.

Module 2: The SOC Practice Approach

What is the Practice Approach in SOCs?

Module 2 defines the practice approach to Systems of Care with regard to four characteristics: (1) individualized services, (2) family driven, youth guided services, (3) culturally and linguistically competent services, and (4) coordinated services. In addition, the module elaborates on the “wraparound” process.

After introducing these concepts, Module 2 identifies the importance of youth and family involvement in Systems of Care and reports on organizations, such as Youth MOVE, that are intended to unify youth voices and prepare youth for leadership roles.

Finally, Module 2 emphasizes the necessity of cultural and linguistic competence in the SOC approach. In order for successful implementation, Systems of Care must convey information in such a way as to make it understandable within a variety of cultural contexts.

Module 3: The Beginning

How do you get started in SOC expansion?

Module 3 covers the initial phases of SOC expansion, enabling learners to identify and describe the required components for it. The module begins by highlighting the five core strategy areas in the planning process: Policy and Partnership Changes; Services and Supports; Financing Strategies; Training, TA, and Coaching; and Strategic Communications. Together, these make up the Goals and Strategies Table, which proves invaluable in developing a strategic plan.

Additionally, Module 3 addresses the common factors that affect SOC expansion, such as having realistic goals and specific strategies, as well as how to assess progress at system, community, and child and family levels.

After covering the assessment aspect of SOC expansion, Module 3 offers several guides for managing the expansion process, such as the Expansion Planning Guide, Expansion Implementation Guide, and Financing Plan Guide. These are intended to provide learners with in-depth information concerning the most important aspects of initiating SOC expansion.

Module 4: Strategies for SOC Expansion

What are effective strategies for SOC Expansion?

Module 4 begins with a brief overview of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Theory of Change before detailing the specifics of how it relates to SOC expansion.

System of Care expansion is not so much a “project,” but a realistic means of enacting systemic change to improve services and outcomes. Module 4 elaborates on SOC expansion as such with regard to the two levels of change (i.e. local and state) and the Five Core Strategy Areas: (1) Implementing Policy and Partnership Changes, (2) Developing or Expanding Services and Supports Based on the SOC Philosophy and Approach, (3) Creating or Improving Financing Strategies, (4) Providing Training, TA, and Coaching, and (5) Generating Support through Strategic Communications.

In addition, Module 4 covers Policy, Regulatory, and Partnership Changes; Expanding Services and Supports; Financing Strategies; Training and Technical Assistance; and the Infusion of SOC Values into Expansion Efforts. References to particular state examples occur throughout the module in order to connect SOC expansion theory with praxis.

Module 5: Progress and Outcome Assessment

How do you assess progress in SOC expansion?

Module 5 addresses the assessment process at the three levels of SOC expansion: State, Tribal, and Territorial; Community; and Child and Family. Assessment enables one to monitor the implementation of SOC expansion efforts at multiple levels and over time.

In order to assess progress over time at each level, SOCs can use an online rating tool to estimate the level of implementation. Module 5 covers the types of information gathered from this rating tool, as well as the many ways in which this information is employed.

In addition, Module 5 reviews the SOC values and principles and lists the various indicators for the successful maintenance of these values. The module ends with an overview of the SOC rating tool respondents, including a summary of previous responses, before relaying the Keys to SOC expansion, one of the most important of which is to always remember that SOC expansion is not a “project” but sustainable systemic changes to improve services and outcomes.

Module 6: Trauma Informed Systems

What are trauma informed systems of care and why is it important for systems, organizations and service providers to become trauma informed?

The module is divided into six sections, beginning in section one with an overview of what it means to be trauma informed and ending with the five steps necessary to becoming a trauma informed system or organization.

Throughout this module, students wil learn about many dimensions of trauma informed care and will cover topics ranging from trauma theory, the impact of trauma, to the intersection of culture and trauma.

Module 7: The Most Essential Component of the System of Care Approach

This final module of the System of Care Expansion Toolkit summarizes the varous dimensions of the System of Care Approach. Throughout the module you will hear from experts in the field who will share their experiences and wisdom about applying the System of Care Approach in thier work.

Upon completion of this module you will be able to answer the question, "What is the most essential component of the System of Care Approach?"