Typically, residential care is necessary when your child’s safety is at risk, s/he cannot be successful in a regular school setting despite special accommodations made to provide emotional and educational support, and, often, after multiple psychiatric hospitalizations.
The decision to have your child placed in a residential school is usually made by the school treatment team as a part of his/her Individual Education Plan (IEP), and usually, it is the school district that funds room and board. As a parent, you are a part of the IEP team and your observations, wishes and concerns are taken into consideration when making the decision.
For three years, I was a counselor and then a dormitory manager in one such special workplace, the Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School at the University of Chicago. The kids I encountered there were smart kids, sensitive kids, troubled but gifted, challenging and often very demanding emotionally. Their families could no longer manage them safely at home and reached out for help.
In order to meet their needs, residential schools provide 24/7 supervision, around the clock therapeutic services, including milieu, group and individual therapy, crisis intervention and special education instruction. A multidisciplinary team of dedicated professionals works together to address all aspects of your child’s life from leisure activities and schoolwork to psychiatric and medical care.
It is not unusual for schools to recommend family therapy as one of the many therapeutic services available to you and your child. In fact, oftentimes, it is crucial for the family to engage in the treatment for a long-lasting change to occur.
Unfortunately, residential care is expensive and insurance companies rarely provide reimbursement for such long-term treatment. Not only that, but making the decision to have your child live in a therapeutic setting away from you is often a very difficult decision to make. Families often need extensive support when faced with such decisions or when they no longer feel in control at home. I continue to provide support to such kids and families in private practice. Because when it is all said and done, it is really worth it!