Although it is ideal to keep children with behavior problems in their family homes, this is not always possible when the child poses a risk to himself or others. Residential placement options vary by state and often have strict admissions criteria. Prior to admission, children will usually need a full psychological evaluation, the recommendation of a therapist or a referral from a state social service agency.
Therapeutic Foster Care
Therapeutic foster care is a service some states offer that place children in a single-family home headed by foster parents trained in severe child behavioral issues, explains the Child Welfare Information Gateway. Unlike traditional foster care, parents often place their children in these therapeutic homes voluntarily, until the child improves his behaviors. In addition to the structure offered by therapeutic foster care, children in these homes also often receive intensive outpatient therapeutic services or day treatment. To be considered for therapeutic foster care, families typically must first try other therapeutic services, including intensive outpatient therapy or in-home counseling services. Typically, the end goal of therapeutic foster care is to return the child to his family after his behaviors have improved.
Residential Treatment Facilities
Residential treatment programs are typically reserved for those children with severe behavioral problems—such as those who are suicidal, engage in self-mutilation or have thoughts or plans to harm others, explains the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. They may be well suited to children with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or other mental health conditions. These are restrictive placements monitored 24/7 by a staff of trained mental health professionals. In these placements, parents are generally encouraged to visit their children and participate in regular family therapy sessions.
For children with behavior problems who could befit from a structured, disciplined living environment, boot camps are another option. An appropriately accredited boot camp will have trained staff that understands the dynamics of child behavior and will use nonviolent means to help children learn the importance of complying with rules. They may use strategies such as physical strength training as well as recreational therapy, such boating or sports, to help children learn new discipline skills. Although boot camps can be effective, they are generally not a good choice for children with depression or severe mental illnesses. Furthermore, some of these programs are restricted only to those youth facing criminal charges, explains Keys to Safer Schools.
Specialized Treatment Centers
Children and adolescents with specialized needs require residential settings designed to meet their unique presenting issues. For example, some detox and substance abuse rehabilitation centers treat teens struggling with alcoholism or drug abuse. Likewise, for teens struggling with sexually aggressive behaviors, specialized treatment facilities can help them learn new behaviors, process trauma and learn the skills they need to avoid reoffending.
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: Residential Treatment Programs
- Child Welfare Information Gateway: Treatment Foster Care
- Keys to Safer Schools: Juvenile Boot Camps and Military Structured Youth Programs
- Spark Action: For Juvenile Sex Offenders, Intensive Program Offers Chance to Change
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