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What to Expect When Admitting Your Child to a Psychiatric Hospital

If your child is experiencing thoughts of suicide and/or self-harm, please call 911, your primary physician, a local community mental health center, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you’re in Kansas or Missouri, call KVC Hospitals at 913-890-7468 to learn about admission to a psychiatric hospital near you.

Admission to a psychiatric hospital can be an emotional but necessary decision for parents who are concerned about their child. Most often, someone receiving this level of treatment needs professional help managing struggles with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, self-harm, the impacts of trauma, disruptive or dangerous behaviors, or other mental health needs.

Annmarie Arensberg

It’s natural for family members to have several questions prior to and during the admission process. We asked Annmarie Arensberg, LCSW, LSCSW, Director of Clinical Operations at KVC Hospitals, to explain the process and answer some of the questions she frequently receives. KVC Hospitals has a network of psychiatric hospitals and residential treatment centers serving youth ages 6 to 18. Arensberg oversees KVC’s highly skilled admissions and therapy teams who work to ensure each child has a positive experience and successful treatment outcomes.

Q: How does the process of admission to a psychiatric hospital start?

Annmarie Arensberg: The process typically starts with a phone call from a parent or guardian or as a referral from another healthcare organization or community partner. Our admissions team works to gather information about the child to help the family determine if hospitalization is the best treatment plan for their child or if there’s another treatment option they should consider.

Call us at (913) 890-7468

Q: How are you keeping COVID-19 out of your hospitals?

Arensberg: The safety and wellbeing of the children we serve, their families, and our employees are our first priorities and we have implemented several preventative measures to protect against the coronavirus. We are monitoring new information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and our local and state health departments daily. We are quickly addressing new information and guidelines as they become available and enhancing our policies when appropriate. Click here to see the full list of preventative measures we’ve implemented to protect against the coronavirus.

Q: What can they bring with them to the hospital?

Arensberg: When a child is admitted to one of KVC’s psychiatric hospitals, they should bring the following:

  • Healthcare information and immunization records; if available
  • Healthcare insurance card; if applicable
  • Medication list and any specific medications such as an inhaler, antibiotics, or allergy medicine
  • List of dietary restrictions or other special needs

Clothing, undergarments and hygiene products are provided by the hospital. If the child has sensitive skin or a contact allergy, they should bring the correct body wash, lotion or laundry detergent that is medically needed.

Q: What happens after arriving at the hospital?

Arensberg: When a family arrives, a nurse or other healthcare professional will meet them in our lobby and escort them to one of our visiting rooms. They will help the family complete the admissions paperwork and go over any questions they have about their child’s treatment, including, but not limited to:

  • What services the child will receive
  • When to visit or call the child
  • Recreation and activities
  • Family involvement in the treatment process

Hospital unit at KVC Hospitals Wichita

Once all questions have been answered, families are given time for hugs and goodbyes. The child is then taken to our hospital unit where they will meet more of the treatment team and get acquainted.

We know sometimes it can be difficult for parents or guardians to be onsite with their child due to different life circumstances. When that is the case, as long as the parent or guardian sends us the completed consent paperwork we can complete the admission process over the phone.

Q: How long does a child typically stay in the hospital for treatment?

Arensberg: Length of stay is different for each child and depends on their individual treatment needs. Typically, a child receiving care in one of our inpatient psychiatric hospitals stays with us for 4 to 6 days. Our goal is to help the child stabilize and return home as soon as safely possible, equipped with the skills, support, and resources they need to continue treatment in their community. Our treatment team works with each child’s family to create a discharge/aftercare plan and coordinate follow-up care in their home community.

Q: What advice do you have for someone who is considering psychiatric hospitalization for their child?

Arensberg: We know that it can be difficult to imagine taking your child to a psychiatric hospital, but it can be the best and safest place for children and teens who are going through a mental health crisis. KVC Hospitals’ team members are passionate about their work and committed to providing the highest quality care for each child who comes to us for help.

Have more questions? Check out our FAQs for more answers.


KVC Hospitals is accepting new clients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For more information, call our team at (913) 890-7468 or complete this form:


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.