Skip to main content

The Eating Disorders Center at Children's Mercy provides specialized outpatient services to children, adolescents, and young adults using a family-based approach, for the evaluation and treatment of eating disorders. We address the full scope of symptoms that can accompany an eating disorder.

The care team focuses on the complex medical, psychological, and nutritional issues that contribute to an eating disorder. Our approach to wellness includes setting positive goals for nutritional health and body image, enhancing coping skills, and establishing a treatment plan for achieving and maintaining recovery. 

The program is based on research. It involves approaches to care proven to be most effective in treating eating disorders.

Your child's care team


Your child will be seen by a comprehensive team that includes specialists in adolescent medicine, child and adolescent psychiatry, psychology, nutrition, and social work.

Psychologists specialized in treating children and adolescents provide assessments for emotional and developmental factors that may contribute to eating disorders.

We use a family-centered approach that incorporates the role of the family and support system in the treatment process.

Once a child is evaluated at the Eating Disorders Center, we will work with any established providers to determine the most appropriate plan of care. We treat all types of eating disorders in children and adolescents. Each patient is treated with a common philosophy and approach.

Our care philosophy


We care for children using a family-centered and developmentally-appropriate model. For example, an 11-year-old is not at the same stage of independence or cognitive development as a 17 year old. Therefore, the role of parents and the therapeutic techniques used are adapted to match the specific needs of the child or adolescent.

The standard of care in the treatment of eating disorders in children and adolescents is a coordinated, multidisciplinary approach. Each family receives services that work with the core disciplines of medical, mental health, and nutrition.

Family based treatment is offered to adolescents and their families following a comprehensive medical evaluation to determine the most appropriate treatment course.

Another service offered to established patients is “parent coaching” by our Family Outreach Coordinator to offer guidance and support in order for the treatment team to better partner with parents in caring for their children.

Additional mental health components available at Children's Mercy may include psychotherapy with our PhD-level psychologists, family therapy, and psychiatric consultation, all with professionals who specialize in eating disorder treatment.

Coordination of care


When a child or adolescent is previously engaged in mental health treatment, the Children's Mercy team will use a careful and individualized approach in decision-making regarding the possible transfer of services. This decision depends on what would best serve the needs of the child or adolescent.

When services are not transitioned, coordinated care remains essential and requires mutual ongoing communication between all involved providers.

Patient care involves several areas of focus including:

  • Education regarding the nature of eating disorders and their impact on physical health and development.

  • Challenges to the belief that self-worth and personal identity are based on weight or appearance.

  • The development of life skills and coping strategies that will enable the individual to manage current life demands as well as be prepared for those likely to arise in the future.

  • Addressing possible co-occurring conditions, such as depression or anxiety disorders.

  • Common issues addressed regarding eating, body image, and all areas of life include learning to accept and manage negative emotions, increasing flexibility in thinking, decreasing perfectionism, and challenging extreme (black-and-white) thinking patterns.

Patient and parent roles change throughout recovery


Patient and parent roles change throughout recovery. Under the guidance of dietitians who specialize in eating disorders, parents are often put in charge of their child’s or teenager’s eating, including what is served, how much is served, and when it is served.

This is particularly the case if the child or adolescent is younger or if an older adolescent has not been successful managing his or her own eating.

As treatment progresses, selection and timing of intake is slowly returned to the child or teenager, based on his or her readiness.

Get facts about eating disorders

Conditions

Anorexia Nervosa

Symptoms include: self starvation and excessive weight loss, refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for height, body type, age, and activity level; intense fear of weight gain or being "fat"; feeling "fat" or overweight even when he/she is thin; loss of menstrual periods; loss or thinning of hair; exercises excessively, even when tired or injured; extreme concern with body weight and shape.

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Symptoms include: an eating or feeding disturbance (e.g., apparent lack of interest in eating or food; avoidance based on the sensory characteristics of food; concern about consequences of eating) and results in failure to meet appropriate nutritional and/or energy needs; may result in weight loss, significant nutritional deficiency, interference with psychosocial functioning, and may require tube feeding or nutritional supplements.

Bulimia Nervosa

Symptoms include: repeated episodes of binging and purging (throwing up); feeling out of control during a binge and eating beyond the point of comfortable fullness; engaging in vomiting, laxative, or exercise abuse; frequent dieting and fluctuations in weight; extreme concern with body weight and shape.

Other eating disorders

Eating disorders can include a combination of the signs and symptoms of anorexia or bulimia. While these behaviors may not be clinically considered a full-syndrome eating disorder, they can still be physically dangerous and emotionally draining. All eating disorders require professional help.

To make an appointment

To provide each patient and family with the comprehensive care they deserve, new patient appointments are limited to three times a week at this time. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. We look forward to providing your child dedicated care. 

What to bring to your appointment:

  • Symptoms or behaviors you are concerned about

  • Past and current eating patterns

  • Routine exercise habits

  • Current care providers (primary care provider, psychiatrist, other specialist, therapist, nutritionist, etc.)

  • Current medications

  • Child's current weight, height and weight history, if known