In May 2022, the Children, Youth & Family Funders Roundtable (Roundtable) held three virtual calls focused on the children and youth mental health crisis, including a funder peer call designed to identify shared questions and obstacles to funding. Five themes emerged: 1) making mental health a policy and funding priority, 2) developing the mental health workforce, 3) defining mental health, 4) designing a cohesive funding strategy, and 5) identifying data sources.
In response to these questions, the Roundtable queried its members to identify data sources funders use to understand and track the child and youth mental health crisis. Additional questions explored sources of expert information, how funders evaluate their mental health giving, and gaps in the data. This article is a summary of the findings. We heard from 19 members, most place-based or regional (74%), with additional responses from nationwide funders (16%), and philanthropic consultants (11%).
What data sources do you use for understanding and tracking the child and youth mental health problem? What experts or organizations do you turn to for information on child and youth mental health?
Grantees and local organizations. Many respondents turn to their grantees for data, both quantitative and qualitative, on the child and youth mental health crisis. Some have held community listening sessions to understand priorities and problems. Local hospitals and resource helplines may collect data on who is seeking help and for what kinds of problems.
Nationwide data sources. Nationwide data you can access include:
- The COVID Impact Survey,
- The Household Pulse Survey from the US Census Bureau.
- The National Survey of Children’s Health,
- The National Survey on Drug Use and Health,
- The Youth Experience Survey (YES), and
- The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) from the CDC.
State data sources. For statewide data, funders use their State KIDS COUNT reports and some state Departments of Health report data (funders from Minnesota and Texas recommended this).
Experts. Respondents identified a wealth of local experts, from grantees to research centers to child advocates. Nationwide experts include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Psychological Association (APA), Chalkbeat, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Child Mind Institute, Child Trends, Community Catalyst, Georgetown Center on Children and Families, Hope Squad, The Jed Foundation, Lurie’s Center for Childhood Resilience, Mental Health America, Mindful Philanthropy, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), National Council for Mental Wellbeing, New America, the U.S. Surgeon General, and Zero to Three.
What are the primary data gaps?
The most common request is disaggregation of data to understand trends by race, age, and gender. Funders want access to more timely data. It’s often available, but on a one to two year lag. They would also like to hear more from youth directly. Another outstanding question is the economic impact of mental health on families and employers. Additional data exploring the effect of the pandemic on children and youth would also be helpful.
In addition to these data requests, funders have specific questions about the efficacy of programs. Research on mental health programs in early childhood education settings, school-based programs, and prevention strategies is needed. There’s interest in better understanding the link between outcomes and culturally responsive programs, too.
Almost all of the funders who responded to the survey do not use data to guide decision making around their child and youth mental health giving. They cultivate relationships with their grantees and turn to their grantees as the experts in what their communities need. There are several national data sources, but data needs to be available in quicker timescales and disaggregated by race, age, and gender. In addition, there are many unresolved questions regarding what types of programs are best suited to meet needs and how to prevent mental health problems.