Child and Adolescent Inpatient Services

Mission Statement

Our mission is to provide state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment services for children and adolescents suffering from a broad range of psychiatric problems that require acute inpatient treatment. The mental, emotional and physical development of a child is complex. A safe and consistent environment is essential in order to meet the many-faceted needs of this population.

Specific areas that are frequently addressed during an inpatient hospitalization may include neurochemical imbalance, physical and/or sexual abuse, dysfunctional family systems, cognitive impairment, and inability to master appropriate socialization skills.

Therapeutic interventions are varied and are individualized based upon the assessment of each child and family system. Our goals are to provide efficient diagnosis and treatment, to arrange appropriate follow-up care after hospitalization, and to assist the patient and the family to learn behavior management skills for use within the community. 


Service Goals and Objectives

Our goal is to provide safe and structured care, which facilitates growth and development for the child or adolescent and the family.  Complete assessment, planning, intervention and evaluation of treatment for each patient and their family:

  1. Perform a multidisciplinary assessment of neurodevelopmental issues, medical status, individual strengths and difficulties, as well as environmental issues, family strengths and difficulties.
  2. Develop a multidisciplinary treatment plan to address the identified issues.

Admission Criteria

  1. Patients must meet the general criteria for admission to the NC Neuroscience Hospitals outlined in the Inpatient Psychiatry Policy and Procedure Manual.
  2. The patient must have a primary psychiatric illness and be in need of inpatient treatment or comprehensive diagnostic services not available or practical in a less restrictive environment.
  3. Patients should be at least 5 years old and under 18 years old.
  4. Patients should be at a developmental level and be medically stable enough to have some ability to participate in the unit programming.
  5. Unit conditions must be conducive to the provision of safe, comprehensive care. (The number of certain types of problems my be limited. These unit-based decisions are to be made by the nurse manager and attending physician).

Interdisiciplinary Team

An interdisciplinary approach is used to plan and provide care for patients and their families. What this means is that patients see a variety of health care workers that can relate on many different levels and concerns. The interdisciplinary team members include the following:

  1. Attending Child Psychiatrists
  2. Psychiatry Residents
  3. Nurses
  4. Occupation Therapists
  5. Recreation Therapists
  6. Social Workers
  7. Teachers
  8. Psychologists, when consulted

Please note that since UNC is a teaching hospital, closely supervised trainees from the above disciplines may frequently participate in a child’s care.  The role of medical students and other trainees, however, never replaces that of the physician and other professional therapists or caregivers.

Course of Hospitalization

The interdisciplinary team will prioritize goals for the hospitalization.  Diagnostic evaluations that may be indicated during the hospitalization include:

  • organic workup (EEG, MRI, etc.)
  • labwork
  • psychoeducational testing
  • visualmotor, fine motor testing
  • speech and language evaluation
  • psychological testing
  • trauma evaluation
  • family, environmental assessment

Medication trials will be initiated based on diagnostic need.  Family assessments and parent education are an integral part of the care program, as well as the follow-up planning.  Patient and group safety is carefully maintained.  The patient is expected to attend various groups such as the social skills groups, recreational or occupational therapy, relaxation groups, and community meetings in order to learn needed skills and strategies for coping in the community.

Each patient will be enrolled in our Hospitals School, which is part of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro public school system.  For more information about the UNC Hospitals School, visit the website at http://www2.chccs.k12.nc.us/education/dept/dept.php?sectionid=3453.

Discharge Criteria

Patients are considered to be ready for discharge when they can receive safe and appropriate care in a less restrictive setting.  Since each patient’s treatment plan is individualized, it is difficult to state a specific length of stay.  Every effort is made to keep a child or adolescent hospitalized no longer than necessary to provide quality care and to plan for appropriate post-hospitalization care.

Aftercare issues are identified early in the hospitalization and follow-up planned.  Most patients require treatment after discharge, which can range from psychotherapy and/or medication management to wrap-around services or residential treatment.  Our social workers work closely with families and the community to plan the discharge and to arrange for immediately accessible resources, as well as to begin the process of accessing less readily available resources such as residential treatment.  Crisis planning is a priority regardless of the availability of recommended services. 

Information for Referrers:

  • If a child or adolescent is in crisis and requires immediate evaluation, they may be seen in the UNC Hospitals Emergency Department in the basement of the Neurosciences Hospital.
  • If you have assessed the child or adolescent and are interested in direct admission to our units, please call (919) 966-2041.