Special rules are governing the hospitalization of children. This is because a child's parents or legal guardian have a legal right to have input into whether a child is hospitalized.
Voluntary outpatient care for minors
Any child age 12 or older may receive outpatient counseling and psychotherapy upon the child's request. The child's parent or guardian cannot be informed that the child is receiving treatment without the child's consent. However, the facility director may disclose the treatment to the child's parents if he or she believes that disclosure is necessary and the child is informed of the intention to notify the child's parents.
If the treatment has not been disclosed to the child's parents, a child under age 17 may receive no more than five treatment sessions lasting not more than 45 minutes each. A child's parents are not responsible for the costs of any treatment rendered without the parent's knowledge and consent.
Voluntary admission of minors upon the minor's request
Any child age 16 or over may voluntarily admit himself to a mental health facility. The procedures are the same as those which apply to the voluntary admission of adults as described above. The facility must notify the child's parents or legal guardian of the admission.
Voluntary admission of minors upon the parent's or guardian's request
A child's parent or legal guardian may seek to voluntarily admit a child to a mental health facility for inpatient care. If the child does not have a parent or guardian, or the parents or guardian cannot be found, some other person who is providing for the care of the child can request that the child is admitted.
Certification before the voluntary admission of a child
Before the child may be voluntarily admitted, the child must be personally examined by a psychiatrist, clinical psychologist, or clinical social worker. The examiner must certify in writing that the child has a mental illness or emotional disturbance of so severe that hospitalization is necessary and the child will likely benefit from inpatient treatment. The examiner must also state the reasons for coming to this conclusion and explain why a less drastic form of treatment is not an option. This written statement is called a certificate.
Emergency admission of minors
In an emergency which requires the immediate hospitalization of a child, a minor can be admitted without first presenting the certificate described above.
The request for emergency admission may be made by the child's parent or legal guardian. If the child does not have a parent or guardian, or the parents or guardian cannot be found, some other person over age 18 who is providing for the care of the child can request admission. Any police officer who has personally observed the child's behavior also can file the request for emergency admission.
If the child is admitted by someone other than the child's parents or guardian because they cannot be located, the facility must make efforts to contact the parent or guardian. If the parents or guardians cannot be located within three days after admission, not counting Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, a court petition will be filed to have the child declared to be a ward of the State.
A child may be admitted in an emergency if the child's parents or legal guardian can be located, but they refuse to consent to the admission. In this case, some other person over age 18 can request admission. The parent or guardian has the right to take legal action to seek the child's discharge. This is called an objection to admission.
Certification after the emergency admission of a child
Whenever a child is admitted by the emergency admission procedure, a psychiatrist or other mental health professional must personally examine the child within 24 hours of admission. The examiner must prepare a written certificate which states that the child needs hospitalization. The facility must release the child if a certificate is not issued within 24 hours of admission.
Review to determine the need for continuing treatment of a minor
Within 30 days after the admission of a minor, the facility director must review the child's treatment record to determine whether the child still needs to be hospitalized. In making this decision, the facility director must consult with the child's parents, guardian, or the person who admitted the child. If continued hospitalization is found to be necessary, the director must obtain the permission of the parent or guardian.
This same procedure must then be repeated every 60 days. If the child's parent or guardian refuses to permit continued hospitalization, then the facility must consider this to be a request for discharge. The rules concerning the release of a minor are explained below.
Admission to a facility just to examine the child
In cases where the extent or nature of a child's illness is not known, or it is not clear that a child needs hospitalization, a child may be admitted to a mental health facility only to perform an examination.
To admit a child for examination, any of the following persons must file a petition in Illinois Circuit Court: the child's parents, guardian, or another person who is providing for the child's care. The judge will order that the child is admitted for evaluation only if the evidence shows that it is not feasible to perform the needed assessment in a less harsh environment. The judge may order a law enforcement officer or another person to take the child into custody and to transport the child to a facility to be examined.
Objections to the admission of a child
Whenever a child is admitted to a mental health facility, either with or without the consent of the child's parents or guardians, an objection and request for discharge can be filed.
An "objection" may be filed by:
- The child, if he or she is age 12 or older;
- The child's parent's or guardian, if the child was admitted without their consent;
- Any other interested person over age 18. This may include some other person who has been providing for the child's care, or the child's doctor or counselor.
The person filing the objection must make it in writing and file it with the director of the mental health facility. Upon receiving the objection, the facility must discharge the minor at the earliest appropriate time, but not later than 15 days of the date of filing the objection, not counting Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
However, the facility is not required to discharge the minor if, within 15 days of the filing of the objection, the facility files a petition for review and two certificates in court. The petition for review is a request that a court determines whether the child needs to remain hospitalized. The rules governing the court proceedings are described below.
Request for the discharge of a minor
Even if the parent or legal guardian of the child initially consented to the admission of a minor, they may file a request that the child is discharged at any time. They should make this request in writing and file it with the facility director. Upon receiving the request for discharge, the facility must discharge the minor at the earliest appropriate time, but not more than five days later, not counting Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
The facility is not required to discharge the minor if, within five days after the filing of the request for discharge, the facility files a petition for review and two certificates in court. The child, or someone acting on his behalf if the child is age 12 or over, may file the petition.
A petition for review may be filed following the filing of an objection to admission or a request for discharge. In either case, the court proceedings are the same.
The judge will schedule a court hearing to be held within five days of the filing of the petition for review, not counting Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. The child may continue to be hospitalized while the court proceedings are pending.
The same rules described above which apply to court hearings for the involuntary admission of adults also apply to court proceedings in child cases. The judge will appoint a lawyer to represent the child. The child will be entitled to have an independent mental evaluation, and to have a trial by jury.
The judge must order that the child is discharged if the judge or jury finds that:
- The child does not have a mental illness or emotional disturbance which is 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 court finds that the child is not eligible to be discharged, then the judge will authorize continued treatment. The judge may also order the child to enter into alternative treatment if the judge finds that this will adequately meet the child's needs.
Example: The judge could order the child to attend intensive out-patient counseling, take certain medications, and reside in the home of a relative or some other supervised setting.
Discharge from treatment
A facility may discharge a child upon request if there is no objection. Also, a court, based on a Petition for Review, may order that a child is released. Also, the facility director may discharge a child if he or she determines that the child no longer needs hospitalization.
Updated: June 2018