Using Latent Growth Curve Modeling to Examine Changes in Mental Health Outcomes for Children Enrolled in a System of Care


  • This research was supported by a contract with Mecklenburg County Area Mental Health, for which the authors express their sincere gratitude.

concerning this article should be addressed to Tanya Vishnevsky, Department of Psychology, Colvard Building, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 9201 University City Blvd., Charlotte, NC, 28223. Electronic mail may be sent to


MeckCARES, a system of care (SOC) in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, is designed to serve youth with severe emotional disturbances and their families. This study employed latent growth curve (LGC) modeling to examine (a) the degree to which youth improved on indicators of adjustment over the course of the first year of enrollment in MeckCARES, and (b) the services or demographic variables associated with individual differences in the rate of change over time. Participant caregivers (N = 121) reported on 3 major indicators of youth adjustment at baseline, 6-month follow-up, and 12-month follow-up. Primary analyses indicated that there was a modest yet significant improvement in all 3 outcome measures over the first year of enrollment in MeckCARES. Additional analyses revealed that caregiver reports of receiving case management at any point in the first year were associated with improvement in behavioral and emotional strengths as well as a reduction in psychological and behavioral symptoms. No significant differences in rate of change were observed based on caregiver-reported receipt of individual or family therapy nor any demographic variables. These findings suggest that MeckCARES may be particularly effective when youth are receiving case management services. Additional implications for practice are discussed.