Children's Services

Children’s Services supports new and ongoing efforts to improve the lives of Missouri’s children and families. Children’s Services provides education to those within and outside the department’s system on best practices and promising new interventions; seeks to innovative in using resources, including funding streams, professional staff and partners to more effectively address the needs of children and families; and collaborate with other child and family-serving agencies to address the chronic mental health, developmental and relationship challenges from early childhood through transition aged youth.

Children's Services Team Members

Department Wide

Children’s Services Director
Dr. Cla Stearns

Interdivisional Children’s Services Coordinator
Amber Stockreef

Clinical Coordinator
Charise Baker

Early Childhood Wellness Expert
Melody Boling

Director of Young Adult Services
JJ Gossaru

Division of Behavioral Health

Deputy Director for Community Operations
Jennifer Johnson

Chief of Children’s Community Operations - Metro East Region
Kelly Schoenbauer

Chief of Children’s Community Operations - Eastern Region
Melodie York

Chief of Children’s Community Operations - Western Region
Moriah Taylor

Division of Developmental Disabilities

Email general developmental disabilities children related inquiries to:

Email child specific contract inquiries to:

Director of State Support Coordination
Jill Shoemate

Statewide Support Coordination Specialist
Becky McMurray

Statewide Support Coordination Specialist
Lizzie Kucharski

School-Based Prevention Initiatives

Missouri school districts are working with DMH providers to support young people. Most Certified Community Behavioral Health Organizations(CCBHO) or Community Mental Health Centers (CMHC)have partnered with local schools to provide school-based support or liaisons.

  • The Community Counseling Center has pioneered the operation of a stand-alone day treatment center. This successful model has inspired other providers to establish similar programs in St. Genevieve, Jackson, Farmington, and Park Hills. The ripple effect of this success is evident in the growing number of providers investing in substance use prevention.
  • Since 2002, DMH has supported SPIRIT (School-Based Prevention Intervention and Resources Initiative), which targets high-risk youth and provides early intervention activities to reduce risk factors and promote protective factors that may minimize substance use problems in youth. Four contracted agencies supply SPIRIT in 13 school districts in Missouri. Each school offers evidence-based programming.
  • Ten DMH Prevention Resource Centers (PRC) provide substance use prevention education to youth in the school and community setting. They provide Youth Mental Health First Aid and Signs of Suicide training to schools, who then implement it with the youth. The PRCs include the following:    
    • Preferred Family Healthcare
    • Community Partnership of the Ozarks
    • Compass Health
    • First Call Alcohol/Drug Prevention and Recovery
    • Tri-County Mental Health Services
    • PreventEd
    • SEMO Behavioral Health
    • Southeast Missouri State University
    • FCC Behavioral Health
    • Prevention Consultants of MO

ReDiscover provides suicide-specific treatment and follow-up for youth at risk of suicide, as well as services and training for K-12 schools in the greater Kansas City area. They have a Youth Suicide Prevention Team that provides outreach, screening, intervention, care coordination, and follow-up services for youth at risk of suicide.

In the academic year 2021-22, 16 school districts will implement a mental health promotion curriculum called Teen Mental Health First Aid (tMHFA). SAMHSA and the Disaster Response State Grant fund this curriculum for grades 10-12. For school districts to qualify for the tMHFA training, 10% of school personnel must be trained in Mental Health First Aid (MFHA) or Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA). The participating school districts are Callaway, Chariton, Jackson, Jefferson, Miller, Newton, Pike, Saline, and St. Charles.

After School Mentoring Services Programs

The Missouri Alliance of Boys & Girls Club has developed three crucial programs to help young people cultivate positive behaviors and avoid high-risk activities. The first program, SMART Moves, is a well-regarded prevention program that teaches children aged 6-15 how to resist alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and sexual activity. The second program, Meth SMART, extends the SMART Moves program to focus on preventing methamphetamine use among young people. Lastly, the Positive Action Curriculum is a social-emotional learning program for children aged 5-14 that aims to reduce drug, alcohol, and tobacco use by promoting positive decision-making skills and healthy behaviors.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri provides mentoring services for predominantly high-risk African American males who attend Loyola Academy, a private Jesuit middle school, Lyon Academy at Blow Elementary School in the St. Louis City Public School District, and other identified schools in the University City School District located in St. Louis County.

Community Partnership of the Ozarks and PreventEd collaborate to offer the Generation Rx Program to middle and high school students in targeted areas of St. Louis, Greene County, Taney County, Shannon County, and Howell County. The program aims to educate students about the dangers of opioid use.

Burrell Center implements Too Good for Drugs and Too Good for Violence in Springfield and Branson school districts for students in grades K-8. Teachers, counselors, parents, and principals identify participants and refer them to prevention groups with parent/guardian permission.

Lincoln University has introduced the Youth Development/Kid's Beat Program, aimed at high-risk youth aged 4-18 in the Missouri Bootheel. The program includes targeted prevention activities designed to promote leadership development, conflict resolution, interpersonal relationships, self-esteem, and the acquisition and application of knowledge and resources for substance use prevention. 

Family and Peer Support

Children's Services Podcasts are for parents and community members to learn how to better support youth in Missouri. Licensed professionals and individuals with lived experiences will present topics identified by parents, caregivers, and community members that address the needs of youth and families in Missouri.

A Family Support Provider is a trained professional who provides services to family members of children with behavioral or emotional disturbance disorders. These services can include various activities to enhance the service delivery system. Across the state, almost 300 Family Support Providers engage in activities with families such as problem-solving, emotional support, sharing information, connecting them with services, and offering guidance from one parent to another.

Trained Youth Peer Specialists, champions of resilience and hope, offer Youth Peer Support services to assist young people in navigating the mental health service system. YPS, drawing from their own experiences, provides a beacon of hope for young people, encouraging them to envision a brighter future. By being a role model, YPS helps young people understand that feelings like fear, loneliness, and alienation are normal and can be overcome. They use their experience with the mental health service system to help young people set goals, get the most out of treatment, connect with other young people in treatment, and learn skills to develop resilience and independence. YPS supports young people as they find their voice and become their advocates, empowering them to take control of their mental health journey.

Policies and Practices

Behavioral Health

Developmental Disabilities

Children's Mental Health Week

Children’s Mental Health Week (CMHW) is a week in early May dedicated to children’s mental health. The goal is to increase public awareness about children’s mental health; emphasize the importance of family involvement in the children’s mental health movement; and to promote positive mental health, well-being, and social development for all children and youth. Learn more.

Special Initiatives

The Youth Behavioral Health Liaison (YBHL) is a professional trained in mental health who works with various organizations that serve young people in local communities. They aim to help vulnerable children and youth who have mental health or substance use concerns by connecting them to services provided by community partners. YBHLs collaborate with Certified Community Behavioral Health Organizations, other behavioral health treatment providers, Division of Developmental Disabilities providers/regional offices, Juvenile Offices, Children’s Division, family courts, schools, and hospitals to build stronger community partnerships. Their goal is to improve outcomes for youth with behavioral health needs by preventing them from being hospitalized or placed in out-of-home settings, such as residential treatment centers and juvenile detention. YBHLs support young people in family and community-based settings instead.

Collaborations with State Partners

REACH (Receiving Early Access to Caring Helpers) is a program that helps relative, kinship and foster placement providers access mental health services. The program aims to support caregivers of children and youth by connecting them with Family Support Provider (FSP) services. These services help caregivers access mental health resources and provide support through individuals with lived experience. The program aims to promote caregiver wellness and family stabilization and help children stay in their placements with fewer disruptions. It's a pilot program made possible through a partnership between the DMH, the Department of Social Services, and the Missouri Behavioral Health Council.

The Independent Assessment (IA) is a joint effort between DMH, DSS, and the Missouri Behavioral Health Council. It provides clinical assessment for foster care children before residential treatment placement. The Family First Prevention and Services Act mandates an independent evaluation to determine the most effective and appropriate placement option for foster care youth. The assessors use the CANS tool for their clinical assessment, and the completed evaluation is filed with the juvenile court.

The Missouri Child Psychiatry Access Project (MO-CPAP) is designed to provide consultation and educational outreach to primary care providers (PCPs). Child and adolescent psychiatrists offer consultation within 30 minutes of request or at a scheduled time for patients aged 21 and under. PCPs are responsible for treating and managing the behavioral health needs of children and adolescents, who may prefer to receive mental health care from their primary physician.