91 Kids and the Law If a petition is filed, an attorney is appointed for the child. The child’s attorney will privately discuss the matter with the child and the child can decide wheth- er to agree with a recommendation for hospitalization or other mental health services. The child may oppose hospitalization or other services and have a hearing before a judge. The hearing may take place at the hospital. The attor- ney’s responsibility is to represent the child’s stated position at the hearing. Before any court commitment hearing, the child can seek the opportunity to stay at the hospital on a voluntary basis. When may a court determine that a child needs to be hospitalized on an involuntary basis? The hospital is the petitioner at the hearing since it is the hospital’s opinion that the child still requires hospital level of care. The hospital must present evidence to prove that the child’s mental illness creates a likely risk of serious harm to self or others, that there is a connection between the mental illness and the risk, and the likely harm is the result of mental illness. (These are the “commitment standards” by which a child may be involuntarily hospitalized.) The court must consider all possible alternatives to hospitalization. If it finds that a hospital is the only safe and appropriate place the child can be treated, the child may be committed to the hospital for up to six months. After the six months, there must be another hearing as to whether the child meets the com- mitment standards. Commitments that last this long are very rare. The court could then order commitment for a year (which is even rarer). If a child is in the custody of DCF, DCF can consent to hospitalization for a maximum of 90 days. After 90 days, there must be a court hearing after which the court may extend the hospitalization. Is there any other way a child can be committed by the court for psychiatric hospitalization? Involuntary commitment of a child by the court to a hospital for mental health (psychiatric) treatment (chapter 123 Section 12e) occurs very rarely. The same requirements apply: Mental Health and Substance Use Issues 8