Child welfare

All AHCCCS-eligible children in Department of Child Safety care, can receive behavioral health services through Mercy Care. We work to connect them – and the families who’ve opened their homes and hearts to them – with high-quality care. We work with the Department of Child Safety (DCS), the Comprehensive Medical and Dental Program (CMDP) and community provider agencies to provide behavioral health services. CMDP provides physical, dental and vision coverage to children in DCS care.

If you have questions or concerns about you child's care or experience in the behavioral health system, you can contact us at or 602‑453‑8095

To find a behavioral health provider for a child not already enrolled, you can call Mercy Care RBHA Member Services at 602‑586‑1841 or toll‑free 18005645465; (TTY/TDD) 711. You can talk to a representative 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Member Services will choose a primary provider, depending on the guardian’s preference and location.

In the event clinically necessary services added to the service plan are not provided within 21 calendar days after intake assessment, the out‑of‑home caregiver (e.g., foster parent, kinship or group home) should contact the Mercy Care Single Point of Contact at 602‑453‑8095 and the AHCCCS Customer Service line at 602‑364‑4558. The caregiver may then contact any AHCCCS‑registered providers directly, regardless of whether they are a part of the Mercy Care's provider network, to schedule an appointment.

Caregivers and guardians of children under care of the Department of Child Safety (DCS) can also choose providers by searching our online Provider Directory. You can find the searchable directory, Find a provider, at the top of this page.

You can learn more about the benefits and coverage available through CMDP or find a provider by visiting Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS) or calling 602‑351‑2245.

Your Roadmap to Children's Behavioral Health Care English | Spanish
A helpful infographic that outlines how you can identify mental health concerns in your child and how you can start the journey to getting them the care they need. Get an overview on how to access mental health and substance abuse services for children in foster, adoptive or kinship care. View the flyer for information

Children and adolescents in foster and adoptive care English|Spanish
A guide to understanding children’s needs, support and treatment. It's designed to ensure that all foster care youth in Maricopa County get the behavioral health services they need. Download a guide for foster, adoptive and kinship caregivers to find the right behavioral health support and care for the children in their care.


Foster and Kinship Training Series
Mercy Care provides trauma-informed training that supports DCS-involved children and families, including foster and kinship caregivers. Some of the trainings include:

  • Trauma Training Series, including Trauma-Informed Care Overview, Birth-to-Five and Strategies and Techniques
  • Caregiver Self-Care
  • Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Complex Trauma
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
  • PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports)
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Working with Children with Sexually Maladaptive Behavior
  • Human Trafficking

Other trainings are offered and developed as needed to meet the needs of children and their caregivers. If you would like to schedule a training for your group of 10 or more, you can contact us at  

Navigating the Behavioral Health System for Caregivers of Children in Foster Care
A 1-hour training of the Mercy Care behavioral health system under AHCCCS for caregivers of children entering foster care. We'll help you navigate the behavioral health delivery system for children in DCS custody. You’ll learn about the guiding principles and processes for behavioral health decision making that best serves children of all ages. This training also offers resources, supports and contact information for additional information and support in accessing services.

Foster-Adoptive-Kinship Navigation Forum

Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Navigation Forum
Learn about the behavioral health services available to children and youth in foster and adoptive care. We’ll talk about finding the right care, breaking down barriers and getting support for you and your family. Foster, adoptive, kinship and group home caregivers are welcome. You can also contact or call 602-414-7575.

Upcoming sessions

Child and Family Advisory Partnership (CFAP) Community Forum
Get connected to what’s happening in the local behavioral health community. You can talk directly with providers. And, we’d like you to share your ideas on how to improve the children’s system of care. You can enjoy dinner and meet other families. Spanish interpretation and child watch provided. Call 602-288-0155 to pre-register. If you have any questions, email Mercy Care's Office of Individual and Family Affairs at

Where: Family Involvement Center, 5333 N. 7th Ave., Ste. A-100, Phoenix

  • Dinner and networking: 5:30 to 6 p.m.
  • Meeting: 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Upcoming meetings

When children first enter the DCS system, a Rapid Response behavioral health service provider will meet with the child to enroll the child in behavioral health services. This meeting should take place within 72 hours of the child’s first placement. At that time, they also:

  • Assess their immediate behavioral health needs
  • Connect them to services through a Primary Provider Service Agency (PPSA)

The PPSA should schedule an intake appointment for the child within seven days. You can call the agency with any questions, or if you don't have an appointment scheduled within this time frame. 

Foster Care Hotline

If it’s been more than 72 hours since the child came into your care and a Rapid Response assessment hasn't been done, call the 24/7 DCS Rapid Response line at 602-633-0763 to schedule an assessment. This hotline is dedicated to caregivers of children and youth in the child welfare system in Maricopa County.

Caregivers can also call the hotline (602-633-0763) to request a DCS Stabilization Team for short-term, in-home support. Each team is specially trained to work with youth in foster care and uses evidence-based practices to help children and families manage and decrease the intensity, frequency and duration of behaviors. The team can teach appropriate skills to caregivers and children, become part of the treatment team and respond to crisis calls.

At this appointment, the agency will gather information from you, the child and the child’s DCS specialist, available family members and other people who know the child. Bring any information you may have about the child’s family, educational, behavioral and medical history, about their medical or behavioral service provider, and a list of current medications. This will help the team quickly meeting the child’s individual needs, coordinate care and develop an Individual Service Plan (ISP) for the child.

The child’s first appointment with their treatment provider should occur within 21 days of the intake appointment. At this appointment, you may help identify providers and others who will join you and the child on the Child and Family Team (CFT). The CFT is based on a clear vision and set of principles designed to let everyone have a voice and choice when deciding what services and supports best meet the needs of the child, family and caregiver.

The child should NOT be placed on a waiting list for services. If you are told by a provider that there is a waiting list for services, ask them to refer you to another provider or call Mercy Care RBHA Member Services at 602‑586‑1841 or toll‑free 1‑800‑564‑5465; (TTY/TDD) 711. You can also email

There are many services available to children and youth in foster care, depending on their individual clinical needs. They include:

  • DCS stabilization teams
  • High-needs case management
  • Direct support services (including rehabilitation services)
  • Psychiatric services
  • Individual and family therapy
  • Specialty treatment
  • Respite care

A list of available services can be found the Mercy Care RBHA Member Handbook. Learn more about how to get a copy. If you’re unsure whether a service is covered, check with your provider. You can also call Member Services at 602‑586‑1841 or toll‑free 1‑800‑564‑5465; (TTY/TDD 711). You can also email us at

Being removed from their home and placed in foster care is a difficult and traumatic experience for a child. Many children are in foster care because they’ve experienced some form of serious abuse or neglect. Research tells us that children in foster care often have emotional, behavioral or developmental problems. Physical health problems are also common.

These problems and behaviors can appear suddenly or occur over time. If you notice a child in your care showing any of these behaviors, he or she may need professional behavioral health support. It’s important to report any of these behaviors to your behavioral health provider and Department of Child Safety (DCS) specialist.

Caring for children who have experienced such disruption in their lives, although often rewarding, can be challenging at times.

Community‑based services, including respite care, counseling, case management and family support, are available to caregivers. Behavioral health providers are often aware of services and supports in the community for the caregiver and child. You can also reach out to the community resources organizations listed below, or ask your licensing specialist.

Caregivers should also take care of themselves. Some ways they can do this is by scheduling personal time, talking to trusted friends, exercising, getting involved in relaxing or fun activities.

Children suffering from traumatic stress symptoms generally have difficulty regulating their behaviors and emotions. They may be clingy and fearful of new situations, easily frightened, difficult to console, or aggressive and impulsive. They may have difficulty sleeping or show regression in functioning and behavior.

Traumatized children feel that the world is uncertain and unpredictable. They may have trouble forming healthy attachments. They can experience problems with boundaries, distrust and suspiciousness in their relationships. As a result, children who have experienced trauma can become socially isolated and have difficulty relating to and empathizing with others.

Caregivers can help by recognizing and understanding how to respond to these common emotional, behavioral and physical problems of children in foster care:

  • Poor verbal skills
  • Poor appetite, low weight and/or digestive problems
  • Stomachaches and headaches
  • Poor sleep habits
  • Nightmares or sleep difficulties
  • Wetting the bed or self after being toilet trained or exhibiting other regressive behaviors
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty focusing or learning in school
  • Learning disabilities
  • Displaying excessive temper
  • Demanding attention through positive and negative behaviors
  • Behavior indicative of a younger age
  • Imitating the abusive/traumatic event
  • Verbally abusive
  • Screaming or crying excessively
  • Unable to trust others or make friends
  • Fearing adults who remind them of the traumatic event
  • Fear of being separated from parent/caregiver
  • Anxious, fearful and avoidant
  • Acting withdrawn
  • Lacking self‑confidence
  • Believing they are to blame for the traumatic experience

 For older children and adolescents:

  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Sense of isolation and not belonging
  • Negative self‑esteem related to feelings they don’t understand
  • Intrusive thoughts of self‑harm
  • Substance use

It’s important to note that with the right support and care, most children show extraordinary resiliency and determination. They can and do get better with treatment.

The values and goals in the Arizona Vision and 12 Principles are at the foundation of the Mercy Care children’s system of care. 

The Arizona Vision states: “In collaboration with the child and family and others, Arizona will provide accessible behavioral health services designed to aid children to achieve success in school, live with their families, avoid delinquency, and become stable and productive adults. Services will be tailored to the child and family and provided in the most appropriate setting, in a timely fashion and in accordance with best practices, while respecting the child‘s family‘s cultural heritage.”

The 12 Principles 

  1. Collaboration with the child and family: Respect for and collaboration with the child and family is essential to positive behavioral health outcomes. Parents and children are treated as partners and their preferences are taken seriously.

  2. Functional outcomes: Behavioral health services are designed and implemented to help children be successful in school, live with their families, avoid delinquency and become stable and productive adults.
  3. Collaboration with others: Children with multi-agency, multi-system involvement will have a jointly established behavioral health services plan that is collaboratively implemented.

  4. Accessible services: Children will have access to a wide range of behavioral health services to ensure that they receive the treatment they need. Services will be adapted or created when they are needed but not available.

  5. Best practices: Behavioral health services are provided by competent people who are adequately trained and supervised. They are delivered according to evidence-based “best practices.” They are continually evaluated and changed, if necessary, to achieve desired outcomes.

  6. Most appropriate setting: Children are provided services in their home and community to the extent possible. Behavioral health services are provided in the most integrated setting appropriate to the child’s needs.

  7. Timeliness: Children identified as needing behavioral health services are assessed and served promptly.

  8. Services tailored to the child and family: The unique strengths and needs of children and their families determine the type, mix and intensity of services. Parents and children are encouraged to voice their strengths and needs, their goals and what services they believe are required to meet those goals.

  9. Stability: Behavioral health services strive to minimize multiple placements. Service plans identify whether a child is at risk of a placement disruption, and identify steps to minimize or eliminate that risk. Service plans anticipate crises and include specific strategies and services to be used in a crisis. Service plans anticipate and plan for transitions in children’s lives.

  10. Respect for the child and family's unique cultural heritage: Behavioral health services are provided in a manner that respects the cultural tradition of the child and family. Services are provided in Spanish to children and parents whose primary language is Spanish.

  11. Independence: Behavioral health services include support and training for parents to meet their child’s behavioral health needs. Services include support and training for children to manage their behaviors.

  12. Connection to natural supports: Natural supports will be used from the family's community network. This includes friends, neighbors and community organizations.

Here are some helpful resources and organizations for families with children and adolescents in foster and adoptive care.

Arizona Association for Foster and Adoptive Parents
The Arizona Association for Foster and Adoptive Parents is a non‑profit, statewide organization serving families who adopt children and provide foster and kinship care. The association supports, educates and provides a unified voice for Arizona’s foster and adoptive families.

2320 N. 20th St., Phoenix, AZ 85006‑2059

Family Involvement Center 
Family Involvement Center (FIC) is a non‑profit, family‑run organization that supports parents and caregivers raising children with emotional, physical and/or behavioral health needs. FIC provides direct support services to parents and youth (for those enrolled in public behavioral health services), resources and assistance with health services and children’s systems, support groups, education and training.

5333 N, 7th St., Ste. A100, Phoenix, AZ 85014
602‑288‑0155 or 1‑877‑568‑8468

Raising Special Kids
Raising Special Kids provides support and information for parents of children, from birth to age 26, with a full range of disabilities and special health care needs. Programs are offered at no cost to families, and are available in English and Spanish.

5025 E. Washington St., Ste., 204, Phoenix, AZ 85034
602‑242‑4366 or 1‑800‑237‑3007

MIKID is a non-profit, licensed outpatient clinic and family‑run organization that contracts with all the Regional Behavioral Health Authorities (RBHAs) in the state to provide behavioral health services. MIKID offers in‑home and community supports across the state.

2642 E. Thomas Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85016

Reach Family Services Inc./Alcanza Servisios de Familia
Reach assists families who are raising children with behavioral health and emotional challenges.

3535 W. Southern Ave., Ste. 128, Phoenix, AZ 85041

Child Welfare League of America (CWLA)
CWLA is a coalition of hundreds of private and public provider agencies partnering to advance policies, best practices and collaborative strategies that result in better outcomes for vulnerable children youth and families.


National Child Traumatic Stress Network
Established by Congress in 2000, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) is focused on childhood trauma. NCTSN’s collaboration of frontline providers, researchers, and families is committed to raising the standard of care and increasing access to services.