Active Parental Consent for a School-Based Community Violence Screening
Comparing Distribution Methods
Published in: Journal of School Health, v. 77, no. 3, Mar. 2007, p. 116-120
Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2006
BACKGROUND: Students are unable to benefit from many school programs designed to address their mental health needs if their parents do not consent to their participation. As part of an ongoing effort in a large urban school district to meet the mental health needs of students traumatized by violence exposure, this paper examines the impact of alternative approaches on parental response and consent rates for an initial screening to participate in a school mental health program. METHODS: Two alternative approaches were used to obtain consent for students to participate in a school-based intervention for students exposed to violence. For one cohort, consent forms were distributed along with school information and other school forms during a parent orientation meeting. In the other cohort, school mental health clinicians visited student homerooms to distribute consent forms and explain the program and evaluation to students. RESULTS: There were significantly higher rates of return of consent forms (89.8% vs 53.2%) and parents consenting to participate (69.6% vs 27.9%) among parents receiving consent forms at a school meeting than among parents whose forms were distributed to children in a classroom, with comparable rates of active refusals to participate (20.1% vs 25.3%). CONCLUSIONS: Overall return rates and rates of consent for screening participation were substantially higher when the consent form and accompanying materials were provided directly to parents rather than distributed in the classroom and sent home with students. These findings have implications for efforts to obtain active consent from parents for students to participate in school mental health programs.