A psychiatric hospital can be a hard place to live for anyone, especially a young person.
Youth often can’t go outside or access basic education. But sometimes, when the Department of Children and Family Services cannot find a proper placement, it will leave a child in a psychiatric hospital for weeks, or even months, after the doctor says they should not be there. Some of the children found in the audit are as young as 7 years old.
Ben Wolf is a lawyer at American Civil LIberties Union and has represented the youth. “They’ve frequently wept on the telephone to me sometimes, thinking everyone has abandoned them,” he said.
According to the new audit, last year 168 kids were kept for an average of over two months after doctors said they had no reason to be there. However, it said there was trouble verifying the completeness of the information, because of how the department tracked the numbers.
The Department of Children and Family Services says its own numbers are lower than what the audit reports. But the department did acknowledge this was a problem and said it was developing programs to specifically address youth with serious psychiatric needs, including recruiting and training more specialized foster care families.