There are rules for releasing children who receive developmental disability, mental health, or substance use treatment. We provide general guidance below on these rules. This guidance is not legal advice.
When can a child be discharged?
Any child who admits themselves to inpatient treatment can ask to leave. They must do so in writing.
There are exceptions:
- Under age 14: Parents or legal guardians can ask for the child’s release if they received developmental disability, mental health, or substance use treatment.
- Ages 14-17: Only the parent or legal guardian can request release if the child received substance use treatment.
- Ages 14-17: The child and the parent or guardian can request release if the child received developmental disability or mental illness treatment. If the child wants to leave but the parent or guardian believes the child still needs services, they can stay if the facility director agrees in a written statement. The director also must confirm the treatment is appropriate and as least restrictive as possible.
For children who receive mental health or developmental disability inpatient services before they’re 14 and need to continue treatment after 14:
- The child and child’s parent or guardian must apply for admission.
- If the child refuses: The parent or guardian can fill out the application on their behalf. It must be completed 30 days before the child’s 14th birthday.
- If the application is not filled out by the child’s 14th birthday: They must be released. That’s unless a petition is filed by the end of the next business day for emergency detention, emergency or involuntary commitment, or protective placement.
- If the application is completed: Unless a review occurred in the last 120 days, a petition for review must be filed.
If a child or their parent or guardian requests release, it must happen within 48 hours. That’s unless there’s a petition filed for emergency detention, emergency or involuntary commitment, or protective placement. If the child isn’t released within 48 hours, they can file a petition in court. The 48 hours do not include weekends or holidays.
If a child writes a request for release, the facility director must tell the child’s parents or guardian.
A child must be informed of their rights regarding their records when they’re released.
They can submit a written request for a hearing if they’re not released.
What if a child acts like they want to leave?
- If staff members notice the child acting like they want to leave the facility, the director must file a written request with the court. That’s to make sure it’s appropriate for the child to stay. The child’s actions may include leaving without permission or writing a statement requesting release.
- If the child makes a written statement expressing their wish to leave, they must sign it. But they don’t have to write it.
- If the child or someone else gives the statement to a staff member, they must file it with the court.
- The court must order a review to hear the release request. That’s assuming no hearing has been held in the past 120 days.