Treatment in a psychiatric hospital is one of a range of available options when a child or adolescent is mentally ill. 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 proposed stay in an inpatient facility:

1. Why is psychiatric inpatient treatment being recommended for our child, and how will it help our 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 treatment program for inpatient treatment include, and how will our child be able to keep up with school work?

5. What are the responsibilities of the child and adolescent psychiatrist and other people on the treatment team?

6. How long will our child be in the hospital, and how do we pay for these services?

7. What will happen if we can no longer afford to keep our children in this hospital, and inpatient treatment is still necessary?

8. How will we as parents be involved in our child’s hospitalization, including the decision for discharge and after-care treatment?

9. Is this hospital approved by the Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) as a treatment facility for youngsters of our child’s age, or will our child be on a specialized unit or in a program accedited for treatment for children and adolescents.

10. How will the decision be made to discharge our child from the hospital?

11. Once our child is discharged, what are the plans for continuing or follow-up 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 about the hospital’s treatment plan and procedures can fully contribute to the effectiveness of their child’s treatment.

If after asking the above questions, parents still have serious questions or doubts, they should feel free to ask for a second opinion. Parents seeking a referral to a local child and adolescent psychiatrist may contact the AACAP, 3615 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20016, (202) 966-7300.


Free distribution of single Factssheets is a public service made possible by the Academy Endowment Fund. This fund supports educational programs and materials designed to educate parents, families, teachers, caregivers, and others about the mental illnesses affecting nearly 12.5 million children and adolescents in an effort to de-stigmatize these illnesses, promote early identification and treatment, and encourage funding for scientifically based research.

Please make a tax deductible contribution to the Academy Endowment Fund and support this public outreach. (AACAP Endowment Fund – FFF, P.O. Box 96106, Washington, D.C. 20090)

Facts for Families © is developed and distributed by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Facts sheets may be reproduced for personal or educational use without written permission, but cannot be included in material presented for sale or profit. A complete set of over 60 Facts sheets covering issues facing children and adolescents is available for $18.00 ($15.00 plus $3.00 shipping and handling). Please make checks payable to: AACAP, and send requests to Public Information, P.O. Box 96106, Washington, D.C. 20090-6106.

Copyright © 1997 by the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

Presented with permission of the AACAP