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Hospitalization or Residential Treatment Center Placement

Many years ago, children with severe and persistent mental illness were placed in institutions for long periods of time away from their families and everything familiar in their lives. Today, we understand better that there are harmful effects of institutionalization. We also know that we have new medications and treatments that can keep children safely at home.  We understand that children rarely need to spend time in inpatient settings.

Hospitalization is generally a short-term emergency measure. It provides  a secure setting in which to stabilize medications and the out-of-control behavior caused by episodes of illness. A child may be hospitalized when multiple medical and psychiatric issues are not clear, and more time is needed to make a diagnosis and stabilize mediations for all conditions. Hospitals are not an appropriate setting when maximum benefit has been reached for inpatient care.

A child may be admitted to a Residential Treatment Center (RTC) when time is needed in a highly supervised setting to change self destructive or other anti-social behaviors. The goal of RTC placement is to prepare children to re-enter their homes. Daily public education classes (including special education accommodations) are included. Parents are expected to participate in treatment as much as possible and learn how to manage the child at home.

Occasionally, parents/caregivers/foster parents/guardians cannot cope with a child with a severe mental  illness  and maintain stability with other members of the family. At this point, an alternative care plan becomes necessary. These circumstances need to be thoroughly discussed with mental health professionals and human  services case workers, if involved.