Section A: Making A Plan

define your WHAT

ask yourself QUESTIONS to prepare for the journey

  • What is going on that you want help? What is happening now? What does this youth need now?
  • What is the youth's history? What do folks need to know about your youth that would help them understand what might be needed and what might be helpful?
  • What have you already tried? What has helped, what flopped, was successful, or has been only partially successful?
  • What does your family need regarding knowledge, resources, support, and respite? What strengths do you bring to the table?

RESOURCE: Define your what


Gather your PAPERWORK and organize it.

  • Find a recordkeeping system that works for you (computer folder, a file draw, an app on your phone, or an Excel spreadsheet.) Whether high tech or low tech, make a place to keep your forms easily accessible. You need a place to keep historical records, assessments, and communication.
  • Organize it so you can find important information such as when things took place (date everything), who you talked to (names, titles, contact information), and a summary of what happened or was recommended (dated and summarized) including emails or recaps of phone calls.
  • Make it portable (app on your phone, 3-ring binder) so you can take the often used documents with you.

RESOURCE Paperwork check list

gather your WHO

Work to create a circle of support for your child and your family. Some supports will be the services and programs needed to support your child or youth. Other supports will be to help YOU and your family.

  • Locate your resources.(REFER TO SECTION C:Mental Health Resources)
  • Find other parents who share your experience and learn from them. Look for support groups, individuals, online information or support groups. BUT GO WITH CAUTION. There is lots of misinformation and folks with strong opinions that may not be helpful. Be skeptical and seek out reputable sources.
  • Get your family physician or medical providers on board. Ask your pediatrician or family physician to review your child’s medical records to help you prepare for your child’s needs. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers a directory of adoption-competent physicians at
  • Seek out past supports that have been helpful and who know your child
  • Find out as much as possible about your child’s history and physical, mental, and behavioral health.
  • If your child has special needs, contact the related national advocacy organization for resources and local referrals.
  • Ask your child’s school for an evaluation and assessment of your child’s learning needs to see if they should have an individualized educational plan (IEP). U.S. federal law requires the public education system to accommodate all children, regardless of their needs.

RESOURCE Circle of Support

RESOURCE Think Like An Advocate

RESOURCE Stone Soup Family Resource Guide

RESOURCE Find a provider in Alaska (including developmental disabilities)

Links to Other Sections in this Mental Health Toolkit

Section B: How to pay for this

Section C: Access and understanding the mental health system

Section D: If your child needs residential or therapeutic foster care