System of Care is an approach to collaboration and coordination across systems, communities, agencies, families and youth that promotes the physical, emotional, intellectual and social wellness of children and youth across the lifespan. In partnership with youth and families, a System of Care creates a coordinated network of services and supports that is characterized by multi-system sharing of resources and responsibilities. Within Systems of Care, systems, service providers, and natural supports join with families and youth to develop an integrated and individualized plan to address identified needs under the concept of “one family, one plan.” A System of Care embraces the values of family-driven, youth-guided, community-based, individualized, least restrictive care, and is culturally, racially and linguistically competent. Westchester’s System of Care is known as The Westchester Community Network.

Guiding Principles

  • Families must be viewed as partners and colleagues.
  • Families are best engaged in their own communities where they live and are most comfortable.
  • Child serving systems/agencies must collaborate to create a seamless system
  • Services must be individualized to meet the needs of each child and family.
  • Services must focus on strengths and competencies, rather than on deficiencies.
  • Services and care must be unconditional. A “never give up” approach is utilized.
  • Interventions and supports must be available to “wrap services around” the child and family.
  • Services must be racially, culturally and linguistically competent and respect differences of ethnicity, class, gender, and sexual orientation.
  • Trauma informed care approach speaks to the realities and needs of many children and families. Such an approach draws on strengths, relationships, and community supports, and fosters skills and understandings that empower children and families.
  • A balance with child safety must be maintained. While a partnership with the family is the goal, the safety of the children must not be compromised.
  • A Supportive Organizational Culture must be provided. Professionals themselves need to be empowered to use a family empowerment approach. Each System of Care organization’s staff development approach must encourage and train to the attitudes, knowledge and skills needed to support family empowerment practices.

For more information contact:

Michael Orth, MSW
Second Dep. Commissioner, DCMH


Carol Hardesty, MSW, MPA
Executive Director, Family Ties


  • Family Ties espouses a System of Care for children with emotional challenges that is family driven, child centered, culturally competent and focused on the strengths of the children and families involved.
  • All Family Ties services are free and confidential.
  • A year in residential treatment can cost $130,000 or more per person.
  • A day in a psychiatric hospital can cost about $1,000 per person.
  • It costs Family Ties about $1,000 per family for a year of services.
  • A day of Family Ties activities costs about $2.75 per family.
  • Family Ties has existed in Westchester for nearly 20 years and has grown from one small support group to a membership of over 2,000 families strong.
  • Most Family Ties staff have experience navigating service systems for their own families.
  • Family Ties is affiliated with the National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health and Families Together in New York State.