Changes in caregiver and family health and in family health behavior patterns were examined 9 weeks after the hospitalization of a child for an acute, first-time illness in a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). Family and caregiver health included reports of physical, mental, role, and social functioning as well as perceptions of health, pain, and changes in health behavior patterns at 3-7 days after admission to PICU and 9 weeks later. A convenience sample of 20 primary caregivers (all mothers) of children aged 2 days to 17 years served as subjects for the study. Results showed a decrease in mental health scores of all subjects over the 9-week period. Further, those caregivers whose child was rated as having a greater potential for chronicity had a significantly greater decline and were in the range of poor mental health at the 9-week posttest. Seventy percent of subjects reported new health problems in the family posthospitalization, and 43% reported at least one change in family health behavior patterns. Implications for testing the efficacy of mental health nursing consultation and case management during and after critical childhood illness are discussed.