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Tips on How to Select the Right Residential
Treatment Facility (RTF) for Your Child


Choosing the right RTF for your child can be overwhelming to say the least. We asked a group of parents who have been where you are what they wish they knew at the very beginning. These are their tips on how to get started, and what factors you should consider in your choice.

Want to talk with someone who understands? Reach out to one of our Family Support Partners for one-on-one help HERE.
We are here to support you!

  • You are not alone in feeling guilty—every parent does. Remember that you are doing the most selfless thing you can by seeking the help that your child needs. It takes a lot of love to admit that your child needs intensive help.

  • It will sometimes feel like a fight to get your child the services they need. Do not be afraid to advocate for your child and push back on what the insurance company and even the RTF says. Ask your child's therapist to call and speak with the facility. This may feel like a battle, and it might make you feel like what you are doing isn't right—ignore these feelings and trust your gut.

  • Check out the RTF you are planning on sending your child to. Google them and look for reviews on Facebook or other social media platforms. Some places have better reputations than others and may be better suited for your child.

  • Make sure your child understands this is not a punishment.


  • A lot of people, sometimes even providers, misunderstand
    Pennsylvania's consent law. Make sure you understand that even if your child is over 14 they CANNOT refuse an RTF. 

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  • You know your child. You understand what has worked and what has not. Speak up for them and don't be afraid to let people know your concerns, opinions, and thoughts.

  • You know what will set your child off. Be open about their triggers and tell the RTF what situations may trigger your child and should be avoided.

  • Check into their policy regarding restraints. Make sure this policy is a match for your child and what triggers them.

  • Take a look at the contact and visitation policy of the RTF. Make sure that their visitation schedule is doable for you. Ask the RTF if they can be flexible and work with you to fit your needs.


  • Look at their policy on rewards. Make sure that it is the right fit for your child. Some places use food, some money, some time doing things they enjoy. If it doesn’t work for you and your child don’t be afraid to suggest a modification to something you are comfortable with.

Advice on How to Get Your Child—and Yourself—Ready for a Resident Treatment Facility (RTF), from Parents Who Have Been in Your Shoes


  • Don’t send any clothes with your child that are valuable or hold sentimental value. Things may get lost or stolen at the RTF. Make sure their name is written on the tag of everything.

  • When you go to intake have a clear list of what you are sending your child with. Have the RTF sign off on it and take that list back with you to outtake. Make sure everything is accounted for.

  • Before packing give them a call and find out what is allowed and what is not. For example, some places do not allow hoodies, and some do not allow sneakers with laces.

  • Have a clear understanding of their policies before purchasing anything or packing. Some places will provide hygiene products for your children.


  • Make sure these products will work for them. If they have sensitive skin ask if you are able to send them with products that they like as well as laundry detergent that won’t cause them any problems.

While They are There

  • You are not bothering the RTF when you call and ask for updates. You miss your kids as much as they miss you. If your child calls, answers let them know they are not abandoned there by you.

  • Your child is going to play on your heartstrings. They will tell you how horrible it is. It is a survival tactic—be prepared for it. If they do tell you something that concerns you, ask them for details and tell them you are going to follow up with the RTF immediately.

  • Children often have a honeymoon phase at their RTF. They are following rules and then the RTF builds upon this, not the behavior they were having at home. Let them know what a day in your household looks like. It is not as regimented and your child may have stressors like siblings, sharing a room, etc.

Family Impact

  • For weekend visits make sure there is a crisis plan, and don’t be afraid to tailor it to your family. Have a clear plan on how to get the child back to the RTF if something goes wrong.

  • Be mindful of the impact your child's treatment has on your other children. Remind them that this is not a punishment for their sibling—it is because it is a necessary medical treatment. Some siblings often fear that they too could get sent away if they misbehave. Assure them this is not the case.


  • Chances are you do not have friends or family members who are going through the same thing. Reach out to the RTF and see if they have a parent whose child went through the program that you can reach out to. Or reach out to a trained Family Support Partner (FSP).


  • A discussion regarding discharge should
    happen AT LEAST 60 days ahead of time.
    Ask how they handle medication at discharge. Some places send you home with a month of medication, some send you with a paper prescription to fill. Make sure that your child will be able to stay on track with their medication and you will have the time you need to get it from a pharmacy.

  • Stay in contact with your insurance company before, during, and after your child's treatment so that you can understand their regulations as far as transferring treatment and fees are concerned.


  • If your child comes home for weekend visits and a problem arises, tell the RTF immediately, as it could impact discharge.

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