A Major Shortcoming of Child Psychiatric Care in Illinois

A Major Shortcoming of Child Psychiatric Care in Illinois

Hundreds of children under the care of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) are being held inside psychiatric hospitals for weeks or months, even though they have been cleared to leave. These children are supposed to be moved out of these hospitals to environments such as foster homes or residential treatment centers while receiving treatment, but often the DCFS fails to find appropriate placements.

Unnecessary and prolonged hospitalizations harm children and families and are a failure of our state’s ability to care for suffering children. These long stays often have detrimental effects on children and can cause them to deteriorate emotionally, socially, and behaviorally. The children’s right to live in the least restrictive setting, which Illinois state law is supposed to guarantee, are being denied, and some mental-health experts believe circumstances in Illinois are among the worst in the nation.

If you or a family member has a child who is hospitalized unnecessarily, you need help and legal assistance to protect the child’s rights. The seasoned and experienced Illinois family law and defense attorneys at Wolfe &  Stec, Ltd. can help families deal with psychiatric hospitalization, as well as other family issues.  We offer a free consultation to discuss your legal options, so contact us online or call our office today.

Illinois Laws Regarding Hospitalization

Illinois has special rules that govern the hospitalization of children. These include:

  • Parents or legal guardians have the right to have input as to whether a child is hospitalized.
  • Children 12 or older may receive outpatient counseling and psychotherapy upon voluntary request.
  • Parents or guardians cannot be informed of treatment without the child’s consent unless the facility director believes that disclosure is necessary and the child is informed.
  • If the treatment has not been disclosed to parents, children under 17 may receive no more than five treatment sessions lasting no more than 45 minutes each.
  • Parents are not responsible for the costs of treatment without knowledge and consent.
  • Children age 16 or over may voluntarily admit themselves to a mental health facility, which must notify the child’s parents or legal guardian.
  • Parents or legal guardians or another person providing care may admit a child for inpatient care.
  • Before children may be voluntarily admitted, they must be examined by a psychiatrist, clinical psychologist, or clinical social worker to certify in writing that hospitalization is necessary and likely to benefit them and the reasons why.
  • In an emergency, minors can be admitted without the certificate upon request by the child’s parent, guardian or other person over 18 who provides care, or a police officer.
  • If the child’s parents or guardian cannot be located, the facility must make efforts to contact them within three business days after admission or a court petition must be filed to have the child declared a ward of the State.
  • If the child’s parents or legal guardian refuse to consent to the admission, another person over 18 can request admission, but the parent or guardian can object and take legal action to seek the child’s discharge.
  • Children admitted by emergency admission must be examined by mental health professionals within 24 hours and a written certificate for hospitalization prepared or the child will be released.
  • The facility director must review the child’s treatment record after 30 days and every 60 days thereafter to determine whether the child still needs to be hospitalized, and must consult with and get permission from the admitting person if continued hospitalization is found necessary.
  • If the child’s parent or guardian refuses to permit continued hospitalization, this is a request for discharge.
  • Children may be admitted to a facility for examination if the need for hospitalization is not clear or the illness known — if it is not feasible to perform the assessment in a less harsh environment. First, a petition must be filed in Illinois Circuit Court by the parents, guardian, or another person providing for the child’s care.

Objections to Hospitalization

If a child is admitted to a mental health facility, an objection and request for discharge can be filed in writing with the director of the mental health facility by:

  • The child, if age 12 or older;
  • The child’s parent’s or guardian, if the child was admitted without their consent;
  • Any interested person over 18, such as the child’s doctor or counselor.

The facility must discharge the minor not later than 15 business days after the objection is filed. The facility is not required to discharge the minor if the facility files a petition for review and two certificates in court to determine whether the child needs to remain hospitalized.

If a petition for court review is filed, a court hearing will be scheduled within five business days during which the child may still be hospitalized. The judge will appoint a lawyer to represent the child, who is entitled to an independent mental evaluation and a jury trial.

The child will be ordered discharged if it is found that:

  • The child does not have a mental illness or emotional disturbance so severe that hospitalization is necessary; or
  • The child cannot benefit from inpatient treatment; or
  • The child can be adequately cared for in a less drastic setting.

If the child is found not eligible to be discharged, the judge will authorize continued hospitalization or alternative treatment such as out-patient counseling.

Contact Us For Help and a Free Consultation

Unnecessary hospitalization in mental institutions of children for long periods of time can leave lasting scars, both physical and emotional, and damage their sense of self, future relationships, and ability to function.

If your child has been hospitalized inappropriately, you need help and legal assistance. The seasoned and experienced Illinois attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. can help families minimize the negative impact of the situation and focus on protecting your family’s liberties and rights.

Don’t delay — for a free consultation to discuss a psychiatric or other family issue, call or contact us online today.  We represent clients in DuPage County, Naperville, Aurora, Wheaton, Downers Grove and Bolingbrook, and the greater Chicagoland area.

Attorney Natalie Stec

Natalie M. Stec, born and raised in Illinois, and earned her Bachelor of Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her practice has been concentrated in significant pre and post decree marital and family law cases; including custody, visitation, support, and paternity matters. She has important criminal defense experience in both misdemeanor and felony cases. She is a very dedicated and passionate litigator. [ Attorney Bio ]