How to Have a Relationship with Son in Residential Treatment Center (RTC)



I haven't posted in a couple months.

My difficult child (16)-- Brief recap of the past year is-- had him arrested as a last ditch attempt to have treatment mandated, he failed out of outpatient, ran from inpatient, was expelled from day treatment-- with help of day treatment therapist and PO convinced him to go to 28 day inpatient. But rec was really for a year and day treatment was highly unlikely to take him back without a year. Therapist, PO, and my idea was-- get him to short term, then talk him into long term.

That didn't work. And short term was very, very mean to me about that even being my plan-- they had no intention of doing anything but keep him for their time then sending him back-- if he couldn't get into day treatment, fine, just go to outpatient…. As I just read in someone else's post: don't even bother-- like that is going to work.

If he came back home it would be sure failure. I told the short term I was not on board. Sent them a registered letter saying I wouldn't be picking him up. I had my therapist backing me. They were sooooooo mean. About how he's my responsibility. About child abandonment. About illegal. But I stood my ground. CPS got involved, of course. But that was what I wanted-- I figured out that if he goes into the CPS system he would be defaulted to an Residential Treatment Center (RTC) (Residential Treatment Center)-- whereas if he went home to me it would be status quo bc he wasn't willing to do more than status quo. He's just getting older. 2 years behind in school. Using. Intermittent violence (to object) and intimidation (to me).

It was a hard road. But he is now in an Residential Treatment Center (RTC) for pre-placement and will be transferred, likely to another unit in the same facility, for placement. I have a voluntary placement so I am still his legal guardian responsible for all planning and decisions, but CPS is his physical guardian. I got this arrangement via my therapist writing a note saying that *I* need space-- I am not able to care for difficult child right now due to *my* mental health. I feel very not-fair and odd about that part. Because CPS is now checking in on me to make sure I'm going to therapy. I've seen the same guy for about 6 years and the relationship isn't under-mindable, but if it was that would be the way to do it-- check on me to make sure I'm complying.

And I get that that is the same thing I've been doing to my kid for the last 6 years too-- trying to make sure he gets help. I see that it doesn't feel good. But…. And…. And….

I really would be just fine parenting most kids. It's just mine that I can't handle. It's too stressful not to feel safe at home.

SO. Now he is where I want him. So, mostly, great and the situation is better than it was on most levels.

But there is pressure to visit him. That's hard. Do I really want to-- no. It's a long trip and I am shaken woman. But I still have that mother thing-- I want to do anything I can for him.

I found out recently that I can call him whenever.

He asked me to come out today. I think the place isn't going to allow it. Thank G*d. We are already set that I will come Thurs or Fri. I think I am going to choose Fri so his treatment team will be there.

We had a sort of ok phone call. The dog ate x, y store closed, z's knee surgery went well.

Then it sort of turned to the old-- I have to get out of here. How can I get out of here. It's all your fault. I agreed to 28 days (I feel really guilty, because he did and I used it to switch him being away into him being away long term.)

The place has had some problems with him acting out.

He say he has to get permission to stand. Like every time you are sitting and you want to stand, you need permission.

That is sort of heart breaking for me to hear-- though I trust that an extremely highly structured environment is what he needs-- or, at least, it can keep him safe until he's either ready to want help or old enough that keeping him safe isn't my job anymore.

I'm sure he's suffering from my abandonment.

I want to reach out to him.

I want to have empathy for his "misery" in this environment. But I don't know how to respond to questions about how to get himself out of there by saying things like-- you have to work with the system-- without sounding totally un-empathetic. It would probably help me to read up on how to validate a person, because I feel myself invalidating him and I don't like it and don't know what to do…..

I don't know how much of a relationship is possible right now. I feel like I'm relating to him mostly out of guilt. I'm happier when I put him out of my mind and go about my own healing-- stay on my own trajectory.

Should I leave the phone conversation when he starts complaining?
Why does he he even want me to visit?
Why does the place want me to visit-- (my therapist is suspicious that they have an ulterior motive-- is their motive that he wants me to visit-- does he just want me to visit so he can drag me down? what do I owe him as his mother…….)

I'm sort of to the next stage. But now what?

Anyone been here?
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Active Member
You cannot get him clean. The court system can't either. The only person who can is himself.

So it really doesn't matter where he is. There are drugs in jail. There are drugs just outside the NA meeting places in some rehabs also.

The Residential Treatment Center (RTC) where he is now sounds like a prison so he properly feel that it doesn't matter if he is in a rehab functioning as a prison or in a real prison.

In this situation you have to watch out for your self. They wan't you to visit so they can talk you into some kind of therapy controlled by them because they might have some parenting classes to sell. If the visits are not doing you good, then don't do them. If the court system gives up and gives him time served at some point then you have sit down with your son and list the demands for him to come home or risk the alternative: To end up in foster care.

It sounds harsh but as long as someone believes that they can force an addict to stop it will be a failure. He has to want it and then there will still be room for relapse.

We don't have contact to our daughter. It was not a drug issue but we stood firm and kept her well until her 18 years birthday. She left on her own accord. We miss her every day and we will properly second guess our previous decision for the rest of our lives but we did our best to keep us sane and fit while giving her the best tool we was able to to move on in life. On the future will tell if we did right.

You have to be the best mother you can. To achieve that you have to protect your health in order to be a good mother for him. Sometime it demands a no.


Just to be a little clearer-- he is in foster care now-- that's how I got him into the Residential Treatment Center (RTC). He's already not done what he needs to to stay in my house.


Well-Known Member
It is sad that sometimes it takes giving our kids up to the system to get them some help. You are not alone in having to do this. It does cause our relationship to our children to suffer. All you can do is let him know you did what you did to get him the help he needs. Do not expect any words of thanks from him at this time. Visit with him when you can. Just don't expect it to go very well the first few times. If it gets ugly leave, and let him know that his bad behavior will end visits and phone calls.


Active Member
My difficult child was in a Residential Treatment Center (RTC). We visited every week and if he started to give us a hard time, it was time to go. We would go to a meeting every couple of weeks with his counselor and then he'd be brought in for a family meeting. Twice we went to a family group session and we were the only parents to show both times. Our son was grateful we came. We would take our son's phone calls whenever he called and he was grateful. By seeing other kids not having anyone visit or being able to talk to anyone on the phone, he realized we cared about him. It actually gave him the incentive to try his best. I never thought he'd be back in my house, but he is. Every once in awhile, he starts to slip but pulls himself right back together. He attends community college. He's not the best student but he is trying. The police haven't been here in years, used to be here at least once a week. The police are actually commenting on how well he looks and how well he is doing. He works 2 part time jobs but has trouble saving the money he makes but he is getting better at paying for things himself. For us, our being a part of our son's recovery helped him.


Active Member
We visited our son 1x a month when he was in Residential Treatment Center (RTC). We went on family weeked and participated in counselor led group activities. Phone calls were 1x a week. If things aren't going well, say I love you and hang up!

I suspect the more treatment, the cleaner he gets, naturally your relationship will improve. It did with our son anyway. When he got out of treatment, he returned to past behaviors pretty quickly. He wasn't ready.

I've learned (with Alanon) that I have to let go. Some days are better than others, but I am SO much better now than I used to be. I'd encourage you to find a group you like. You need to turn your focus on you. Only he can change himself. No matter how much treatment we force on them, they wont stay clean until they want it. Pat yourself on the back for providing him the tools he needs.