The Residential Treatment Admission Process

In my previous post I outlined what Residential Treatment is, why a child would need that level of care, and how to start the process of admission.  In this post I will flesh out the Admission, or Referral, process.

When we were looking for a residential facility for our then 12 year old son, my professional advocate (court appointed) and I applied to over 75 facilities around the country, and spent 4 hours a day filling out forms and emailing all appropriate documents.  This is what parent advocacy looks like – hours and hours of research, phone calls, application forms, sacrifice of time and money.  But it is worth it!  To give your child a chance for help, a chance of a future.  

Here are 6 things to know about the Admission/Referral process:

Admission:  If you, the parent, are applying for your child, you will start by calling the Admission number at the facility, or filling out their Contact form.  All facilities have websites which makes this first step quick and easy!  You will usually hear back within 24 hours and will then be directed to fill out their application form and send in the following:  Insurance info, medical diagnosis documentation, school IEP or 504 records, school behavior plans or incident reports, hospitalization records (especially discharge plans), list of medication, court paperwork if applicable.

Referrals:  If a professional, such as a therapist or social worker, is applying on your child’s behalf they will fill out a Referral at the facility for you.  This is essentially the same as what the parent does – but it is called a Referral when a professional starts the process of Admission.  They will then send in all the documents listed in the parent Admission paragraph above, and may ask you to send in supporting documents as well.

In-Network Facilities:  Your choices of residential treatment facilities open up when you go through your insurance and do the research on your end.  I have found that therapists and social workers are limited to reaching out to facilities in-state, but hit a brick wall when those in-state facilities either do not have a bed available or will not accept your child.  There are actually In-Network facilities through your insurance that are out-of-state.  Be sure to ask for a Care Coordinator to be assigned to your family through insurance, and this person can help you locate all out-of-state, In-Network facilities.

Restricting Criteria-A facility may not accept your child because they do not have a bed available. A facility may not accept your child because they do not offer the specific services which your child needs, or have the level of supervision that is required.  If the child has any history of aggression or fire-starting (like lighting a match unsupervised) it will be very difficult to find a facility to accept your application.  

Our team of professionals, appointed by the court, advocated for a secured setting – a residential treatment or a long-term hospital setting that offered 24/7 supervision, treatment and education.  However, as the social workers began to apply for admission at each and every facility in our state, we quickly found that facilities shy away from children who have a little to a lot of aggression.  Which is maddening as a parent, because if my child was neuro-typical and/or safe to live at home he would live at home!  It is the kids who are aggressive and need intense treatment that need a place where they can receive 24/7 supervision and intervention SO THAT they can live safely at home!

Buy a File Box and learn Google Drive!  If your child is facing a residential stay, most likely the road you have been walking and will continue to walk will be long term.  You have already collected loads of paperwork, documentation, resources and email communications.  Buy a file box and start organizing the paperwork.  Make a Folder in Google Drive for your child.  Drop every email communication from school, professionals, therapists, social workers into this file.  You will access these folders each time you have a new school, therapist, doctor, hospitalization, facility admission etc.  Be prepared to provide a history of the child’s behavior, treatment and diagnosis.  Create folders in your file box for School (IEP, 504, Behavior Plan), Community Resources, Therapy Programs, Diagnosis, Court Documents, Doctor Evaluations and Records, etc. Especially during the Admission process, you will need to email all documents (have them in PDF form in Google Drive) for admission into any treatment program. 

Turn Your Phone Ringer On:  Seriously!  Once you leave that phone message or fill out the Contact form for Admissions to a facility, you will begin receiving phone calls.  You do not want to miss any important phone calls!

So once your child is accepted into a facility, what happens next?  You may have many of the following questions:  What to pack? What does school look like?  What kind of therapy will they receive?  What does family visitation look like?  Who handles the medication?  How do we know if our child is ready to come home?

Stay tuned in for my next post on What to Expect at a Residential Facility once your child is admitted.  Fill out the Email form below so that you will not miss this valuable and important information! 


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