Nearly all children and youth involved with a child protection agency are eligible for Medicaid, which is their primary source of funding for physical, behavioral, and dental health care. The extent to which the Medicaid benefit structure and service delivery system are customized for children in child protection is critical to whether states can meet the federally mandated goals of safety, permanency, and social and emotional well-being. It is well documented that children involved with child protection have significant health care needs. Nationally, their expenditures in Medicaid are driven more by behavioral health care than physical health care, illustrating the critical importance of effective Medicaid delivery systems in all facets of care.
Some states have undertaken collaborative efforts across child protection, Medicaid, and behavioral health systems to ensure that Medicaid financing can help meet the needs of children and their caregivers. These collaborations can inform other states about effective Medicaid financing strategies and how to approach necessary systemic changes. This brief describes the fundamentals of Medicaid financing, covered services, and coverage of evidence-based practices as they relate to services for children and youth involved with a child protection agency.