Do you need to find treatment for a child in need and are wondering how to find youth residential treatment centers that would appropriate? Learn the types of treatment available for children and at-risk teens, how to find treatment facilities in your area, and what qualifies a child for different types of treatment.
What is a Youth Residential Treatment Facility?
A youth or child residential treatment facility is one where a child or teen lives outside of the home and community, staying at the treatment center around the clock for care in a supervised situation.
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
Residential treatment programs provide intensive help for youth with serious emotional and behavior problems. While receiving residential treatment, children temporarily live outside of their homes and in a facility where they can be supervised and monitored by trained staff.American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
What are the Reasons a Child is Placed in Residential Care?
No parent desires for their child to stay at a residential treatment center, but there are times it is necessary for approrpiate treatment or the safety of the child.
Here are some reasons a child or youth is placed in residential care:
What determines that a child needs a residential placement? The following may be what is necessary for a child to receive a long-term residential placement:
- Danger to self (suicidal or extreme self-harm) or others
- Safety issues
- A crime is committed
- Short-term hospitalization is not enough to stabilize the child’s mental health
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Severe mental health issues that pose a risk of harm to self or others
- Severe anxiety or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) to the severity that the child cannot function at home or in society
- Behavioral issues such as rage, violence, and aggression, including Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and Conduct Disorder (CD)
- Sexualized behavior
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Eating disorders
- Suicidal threats or attempts
- Self-harming behaviors
- Attachment disorders and Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)
The exception to this would be a facility where you privately pay. Private residential treatment centers, wilderness programs, boot camps for youth, military schools, and boarding schools who specialize in behavior issues will often accommodate accepting a child if payment can be arranged.
What Types of Treatment are Available for Children in Residential Care?
There are many types of residential and group homes for kids. Here are some of the most widely available types of residential care for children. Keep in mind that names and types of treatment available will be different depending on where you live.
Residential Treatment Center (RTC)
A residential treatment center is a place where a child lives 24/7, outside of the home environment, while receiving mental health care. This care is part of the services offered by the Department of Mental Health for the state where you live. Funding is typically provided by insurance, Medicaid, and the foster care system. The focus of this type of treatment is to provide long-term mental health care.
Residential treatment differs from inpatient care in that residential care is meant to be for a longer amount of time. While some inpatient programs will keep children for 30 days or more, most offer short-term treatment of less than 30 days.
All residential treatment centers have the goal of the child staying in residential treatment for the shortest time as possible, typically no more than 9-12 months.
Residential Treatment Facility (RTF)
Residential Treatment Facilities are typically funded by the court system and may be called Juvenile Detention (“Juvie”), JJ, Department of Juvenile Justice, or Family Court. When a child is placed through the juvenile justice program, a crime has been committed and a judge determines placement. These placements are typically more of a jail-type setting and less therapeutic, but this is not always true.
A group home for youth is a facility where the children or teens live in a family-type setting. The facility typically has a kitchen, living area, and bedrooms. Children are expected to complete chores and interact with other youth. Group homes can be for behavior issues, mental health issues, transitional, or for children with developmental delays or autism.
Typically, children in group homes participate in outings and community activities with supervision.
Wilderness programs provide a treatment program for youth and teens in an outdoor environment. The goal of wilderness programs is to provide challenging experiences that bring about self-improvement and healing. Most programs have therapists and trained staff. Wilderness programs are almost always self-pay and not covered by insurance.
Bootcamps & Military Schools
Military schools offer structure and discipline in a controlled environment. Teens live at the school. While not meant to be a rehabilitation program per say, some children with behavior challenges thrive because of the structure. While some mental health services may be provided, this is not the main focus of a military school. Military school is a private, parochial school and is self-pay.
Specialized and Sexualized Behavior Treatment
Specialized programs are for children with sexually deviant behavior. The programs may be part of a large treatment facility or may be a stand-alone program. These programs provide highly structured supervision and treatment specifically geared toward stopping the sexualized behavior.
Drug and Alcohol Treatment
Drug and Alcohol Treatment programs offer live-in support for youth and teens with substance abuse issues. These programs may be in a hospital, group home, or treatment facility.
Eating Disorder Treatment
Eating Disorder Treatment programs offer live-in support for youth and teens with bulimia, anorexia and other eating disorders. These programs may be in a hospital, group home, or treatment facility.
Intellectually Disabled (ID)
Treatment programs for Intellectual Disability is for children with an IQ of less than 70 and meet the criteria of this diagnosis. Typically, in order to be diagnosed as ID, a child must show deficits in accomplishing activities of daily living (ADL).
Focus is on creating a safe environment with the appropriate level of supervision while giving children as much freedom as possible. Treatment may include focus on life skills and engaging with the community.
Attachment Disorder Treatment
Attachment Disorder Treatment is specifically for children with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), Insecure and Avoidant Attachment Disorders. Most children with attachment issues come from the foster and adoptive system, but this isn’t always true.
If a child has committed a crime, the court system may place the child in a youth residential placement. Typically the type of treatment center will be one as mentioned above, especially RTF facilities.
A residential treatment placement for youth with mental health issues will be one as described above, with the focus on diagnosis, treatment management, and developing skills to copy with the mental health issue or disorder.
A transitional placement for youth, sometimes called a “half way house” or “step down” placement is one where the child is moving from a highly structured residential setting but is not yet ready to live at home or in the community.
Often transitional placements are in a group home. A student is given more freedom that the previous placement but still receives monitoring and supervision.
Autism /Pervasive Development Disorder
A placement for autism is a residential care setting for children with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder or PDD.
A behavioral placement is one where the primary concern for the child is behavioral issues and not mental health or autism diagnosis. A youth who needs this setting is often violent or aggressive and may have committed a crime.
Therapeutic Foster Care and Teaching Family Homes
Therapeutic Foster Care is a foster care placement for a child who is unable to live at home. The goal of therapueutic foster care is to care for the child in a home setting with foster parents who are trained to manage the behavior.
Family Teaching Homes have the same goal and may be a foster care setting or may be through a private organization.
A Crisis Residence is for children who need a short-term placement outside of the family home. Typically these placements are less than 30 days and the goal is to either move the child back home or into a residential placement.
How Do I Find Youth Residential Treatment Centers Near Me?
Are you looking for residential treatment centers near you? Here are helpful resources.
- SAMSA Treatment Locator – U. S. Substances Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA) has a helpful behavior treatment center locator you can access here. Type in your zip code and you will find a list of all the treatment centers in your area.
- Department of Mental Health – Every county in the United States has a Department of Mental Health. Call the department from the county where you live and ask for help receiving services for a child in need.
- Insurance – Whether it’s Medicaid or private insurance, a call to your insurance company will provide a list of treatment centers in your area that are covered with your plan.
- Referral – Ask for a referral to location treatment centers from your therapist, doctor, pediatrician, psychiatrist, or fellow parents who have children with similar behaviors.
What is In-Patient Care vs. Residential Care?
In-Patient services are 24/7 support and monitoring of a child in a hospital setting. While there are some exceptions (such as eating disorder treatment), most hospitals are not equipped for a child to stay for more than a few weeks.
The goal of an in-patient setting is to stabilize the child’s behavior and medication and then move the youth into a more appropriate setting, whether that is home or residential care.
What are the Best Child Residential Treatment Centers?
There is no one ranking system for the best residential treatment facilities for youth and children. You can call the National Institute of Mental Health or access their services here and SAMSA has a free 1-800 number you can call to ask further questions.
In my experience, referrals from fellow parents, doctors and therapists are the most helpful.
What is Residential Treatment for Children Like?
In residential treatment, children are in a controlled environment with high levels of supervision.
Here’s what that might look like:
- Most residential facilities are locked, meaning the child cannot leave without supervision by staff, although this isn’t always the case especially with group homes or transitional placements.
- Many centers have a small school within the program. The school legally must follow the guidelines of any other school and the Individual Education Plan (IEP) must be followed, if there is one.
- Often children in residential treatment go on outings in the community in order to work on socialization.
- Children may live in units or cottages.
- Most programs include a behavior system with positive reinforcement, rewards, and consequences.
- Most facilities have the legal right to restrain children physically if the child is dangerous to himself or others.
- Unless circumstances dictate otherwise, most programs encourage family interaction and have standard visiting times. Therapists and program directions stay in communication with parents. There are regular meetings to discuss the child’s progress.
Does Residential Treatment Work for Children?
Although treatment can help some individuals, the truth is that residential treatment has overall poor success rates. Children do best in families and within the community. Because of this, all systems (government, insurance) are designed to keep a child at home whenever possible.
Residential treatment is also incredibly expensive and so is seen as a last resort and is reserved for those children most in need.
Mental health treatment tends to have higher success rates than juvenile justice system placements.
Still, there are times when residential treatment is necessary, especially when the child is in crisis or a danger to himself or others. We provide these resources to help you find an appropriate placement for the child in your care.