If you care for a child with a serious mental illness, you are not alone. According to the Surgeon General, 1 in 5 American children and adolescents live with mental illnesses and nearly 5 million suffer from a serious mental disorder that significantly interferes with daily functioning.
Caring for a child with a mental illness can be overwhelming and often strains marriages and family relationships. Children with serious mental illnesses may struggle in school, threaten violence to themselves or others, or get caught in the juvenile justice or criminal justice systems. Meanwhile caregivers often experience frustration, guilt, or anxiety as they struggle to find help for their child.
Although most children with mental illnesses respond to standard treatments, some children with more serious mental illnesses continue to struggle. If you are a caregiver who has utterly exhausted community mental health care resources, you may be considering sending your child to a residential treatment center.
Residential treatment is an extreme measure that should only be taken if local resources have proven inadequate. Conscientious residential programs that use proven interventions such as evidence-based psychotherapy, drug and alcohol counseling, parent support and education, and social-skills training can strengthen families and help facilitate live-saving changes.
The time spent in a residential program should be as short as possible, with the goal of returning the child to his or her family and community with the least amount of stress and disruption possible.
The following five lists of suggestions and information have been compiled from various sources to help you make an informed decision about sending your child to residential treatment.