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Navigate Complex Situations

Making Out-of-Home Placement Decisions

Under what conditions is a residential program advisable? Who decides when and where a child is placed, and how can I know what type of residential placement is right?

Making Out-of-Home Placement Decisions

Under what conditions is a residential program advisable?

The best answer is “it depends.” There are many factors to take into consideration:

  • What are your child’s needs and can they be managed in the community and at school?
  • If not, which agency/system would be the most appropriate to access a residential program?

Is your child having difficulties in school?

Is your child considered “unmanageable,” frequently in a time-out room or some form of suspension, not meeting his or her Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) goals? Even with significant services, is your child still not able to progress?

If you feel that your child’s needs are not being addressed in the school setting, then you may want to consider holding a Committee on Special Education (CSE) meeting to discuss placement possibilities through the school district. Remember, the most important consideration is that the needs of your child are not being adequately addressed during the school day. The school district is required by law to provide the least restrictive environment for meeting the needs of your child. In some cases, this may mean an alternative day program. If you have already addressed this with the school district and found that another day program is not available or would obviously not be adequate, then you may want the school district to recommend residential placement.

The school district may require updated evaluations before taking this step. Alternatively, you may want updated evaluations to demonstrate your child’s needs. Remember, if you disagree with the school district’s evaluations, you have the right to ask for independent evaluations. Evaluations may be helpful in addressing the issues that are impacting your child and may help pinpoint what type of services or program would be most appropriate. The evaluation may even directly recommend residential placement.

For more information about the reasons for and purposes of evaluations, please read through the informative resources.

If your child has been deemed eligible for services by the Office for Persons With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) and the school district has approved a residential placement, talk with your CSE chair about whether a Children’s Residential Project (CRP) program would be most appropriate. This program can only be accessed through the school district and is only for children who have OPWDD eligibility.

Do you need more information regarding the CSE process to determine if your child needs a residential placement, or what your rights are as a parent of a child with a disability in seeking an educational placement? As a parent, you have a right to accept or decline the placement.

Please take a look at the following resources:

Is your child struggling with a mental health issue?

Does your child have a mental health diagnosis such as bipolar disorder, mood disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), psychotic disorder (e.g., schizophrenia) or another disorder that impacts daily living and interferes with typical development?

Within the mental health system there are two types of residential placements for children: group homes and residential treatment facilities (RTFs). Both can be accessed through the mental health system in your county.

To find out more about how to access residential services through the mental health system, contact the single point of access (SPOA) coordinator in your county. Use the MSNavigator Mapping Tool to locate your county SPOA coordinator. If the needs of a youth warrant the services of a Residential Treatment Facility (RTF), the SPOA coordinator will forward the referral to the OMH Regional Pre-Admission Certification Committee (PACC) Specialist. SPOA coordinators also function as the referral agent to other systems if it appears that a child’s needs would be better supported by another child-serving system. With the exception of RTF’s, each SPOA monitors all youth on their respective waiting lists for supports/services accessed through the SPOA to ensure that youth most in need receive the designated supports/service as soon as an opening occurs. Although there is diversity in how each county/borough completes this process, the visual below highlights the basic elements of the SPOA process.

View the flowchart below for more information about the referral process for mental health residential treatment facilities.


general guidelines for the referral process to the RTF level of care

Chart Source: NYS OMH

OPWDD System Residential Placement Opportunities

Is your child eligible for residential placement from the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD)?

This agency has very few residential opportunities for children and youth younger than 21. However, if your child is OPWDD eligible, you may want to fill out an application for residential opportunities in case an opening does occur for which your child may be a good fit. Your Medicaid Service Coordinator (MSC) will help you by filling out the application and explaining the process. Important Facts to help determine eligibility for OPWDD services.

DSS Residential Placements

In extreme cases, where home is not safe – because your child has become a danger to him/herself, to other children in your household, or maybe even you – you may want to consider the possibility of contacting your local Department of Social Services for assistance.

Your Department of Social Services (DSS) may put a preventive services worker in the home, or they might offer emergency or a temporary respite arrangement to relieve a dangerous or uncontrollable situation. If these services are not enough, you should consider applying for voluntary residential placement. Every DSS has a mechanism through which parents can apply for voluntary placement of their child out of the home. The request is then taken to family court. In some cases this process can result in your child being placed in an appropriate residential program. However, it does not guarantee residential placement will be the outcome.

If you have explored all the above systems and still do not have the placement you feel your child urgently needs, contact the NYS Council on Children and Families Hard to Place/Hard to Serve Unit.

Navigate Complex Situations


In an Emergency, Call 911

Looking for help in
non-emergency situations?

Call 211 or 311 in New York City

Suicide Crisis Hotline
1-800-273-TALK (8255) Toll Free
1-800-799-4889 TTY

Child Abuse & Maltreatment Hotline
1-800-342-3720 Toll Free
1-800-638-5163 TTD/TTY
1-800-342-3720 Video Relay

Developed by the Council on Children and Families and Funded by the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council