FFFQuestions to Ask Before Psychiatric Hospitalization of Your Child or Adolescent

No. 32; Updated July 2017

Hospitalization in a psychiatric facility is one of a range of available treatment options when a child or adolescent is mentally ill and in crisis. Parents are naturally concerned and may be frightened and confused when inpatient treatment is recommended for their child. By asking the following questions, parents will gain a better understanding of the care proposed by admission to an inpatient facility:

  1. Why is psychiatric inpatient treatment being recommended for my child, and how will it help my child?
  2. What are the other treatment alternatives to hospital treatment, and how do they compare?
  3. Is a child and adolescent psychiatrist admitting our child to the hospital?
  4. What does the inpatient treatment include, and how will our child be able to keep up with school work?
  5. If you and/or your child practice a certain religion, or follow specific cultural norms, will these be respected when my child is in the hospital?
  6. What are the responsibilities of the child and adolescent psychiatrist and other people on the treatment team?
  7. How long will my child be in the hospital, how much will it cost, and how do I pay for these services?
  8. What will happen if I can no longer afford to keep my child in this hospital or if the insurance company denies coverage and inpatient treatment is still necessary?
  9. Will my child be on a unit specifically designed for the treatment of children and adolescents, and is this hospital accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) as a treatment facility for children?
  10. How will I as a parent be involved in my child's hospital treatment, including the decision for discharge and after-care treatment?
  11. When can I see my child if he or she is admitted? When will I be able to speak to the treatment team?
  12. How will the decision be made to discharge my child from the hospital?
  13. Once my child is discharged, what are the plans for ongoing treatment?

Hospital treatment is a serious matter for parents, children, and adolescents. Parents should raise these questions before their child or adolescent is admitted to the hospital. Parents who are informed and included as part of their child's hospital treatment team are important contributors and partners in the treatment process.

If after asking the above questions, parents still have serious questions or doubts, they should feel free to ask for a second opinion.

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The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) represents over 9,400 child and adolescent psychiatrists who are physicians with at least five years of additional training beyond medical school in general (adult) and child and adolescent psychiatry.

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