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Teen In DCFS Custody Describes Experience Of Being Held In Psychiatric Hospital 67 Days Longer Than Necessary

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Hopeless, anxious, trapped – that is how a teenager described being locked in a psychiatric hospital for months longer than medically necessary.

His fight to share his story even ended up in Juvenile Court. And as CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported Thursday night, blame falls with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

Last spring, at age 17, the young man suddenly found himself in a psychiatric hospital after he went through struggles at home and life became overwhelming. He went into the custody of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

Then, he sat in that locked psychiatric hospital for 67 days, or more than two months, longer than he should have.

"I was really feeling hopeless. I didn't know when I was going to leave," the teen said.

The 17-year-old wanted to share his story with Kozlov, as long as we shielded his identity. It took weeks, and two court hearings, to allow it - after the DCFS tried to keep him silent.

Kozlov: "Did they give you an explanation as to why you spent an extra 67 days in the hospital?"

Teen: "Yeah, they said they were just looking for a placement."

The Cook County Public Guardian's office found he is just one of 314 children in DCFS' care last year that spent an additional 50 days, on average, locked in psychiatric hospitals after they should have been discharged.

"We're just like being forgotten. We're just like being locked up in these hospitals as if they were shelters or prisons, and they're just forgetting about us," the teen said.

A DCFS representative said a dramatic drop in residential beds and foster homes since 2012 is part of the problem. The teen said those 67 days only added to his struggles.

"It hasn't done me any good. It's actually made more anxiety like out in public," the teen said. "You're supposed to be there for treatment. But it doesn't feel like treatment."

The teen, and Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert, said being locked up longer than medically necessary further damages the children DCFS is supposed to help.

"I'm just glad I got through it," the teen said. "I'm really proud of myself for getting through it."

A DCFS representative said many of the children impacted come into the state's custody right before they are supposed to be discharged. He said the agency is committed to addressing the challenge of a lack of resources and facilities for these kids moving forward.


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