What is Residential Care?

Posted on April 14, 2022

By Ondrea Patzlaff, Director of Residential Treatment

Throughout South Dakota, people know that Children’s Home Society (CHS) helps kids. But they may not understand what we actually do.

CHS’s largest program is residential treatment or PRTF program. PRTF stands for Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility. These facilities offer therapeutic inpatient treatment.

The primary goal of psychiatric residential treatment is ensuring children receive quality, trauma-focused care and wrap-around services, including support for their family, with the goal of returning children to a home environment.

While there are other PRTF facilities in the state, CHS is the only program serving younger children. At our two locations, Sioux Falls Children’s Home and Black Hills Children’s Home, we serve children ages 4 to 14. We partner with parents and caregivers to serve children with emotional, behavioral or mental health needs who may have experienced domestic violence, neglect, and emotional, physical or sexual abuse. Treatment is trauma-focused and individualized to meet the needs of each child. The average stay is 12 to 18 months.

Children are referred for residential treatment in a variety of ways. A child who is struggling to maintain safety in a kinship or foster family setting can be referred by the South Dakota Department of Social Services or tribal social services. Schools sometimes refer children who are struggling in school and home settings. Families can also make referrals. As part of receiving approval for residential treatment, a child’s case is reviewed by a state team to ensure that the criteria for PRTF placement are met.

Once a child is referred and approved for residential treatment, CHS gathers placement information, working with the family or referring agency. We encourage families to tour the facilities, if possible.

When a child is admitted, the CHS treatment team works with the child and referring parties to gather social history, identify areas of need and strength and develop treatment goals. Children are part of their treatment planning. Throughout treatment the entire team, including the family, referring placement agency, home school district and CHS team, meet regularly to assess treatment goal progress.

While in treatment children receive individual and group therapy. Family therapy is a requirement of our program for children referred with family involvement. We know children cannot make changes independent of their families, so a goal of CHS is to involve the family as soon as possible. In situations where birth parents may not be available for that child, we look at other family members or mentors to help step into those roles.

Children receive all needed services while they are in residential treatment, including:


Each location has a school. Often children referred to Children’s Home Society may have fallen behind academically. Because of this, and the importance of consistency and routine, school runs year-round, with breaks for various activities, events and holidays.

Medical Services

CHS has an on-site nursing department. Contracted psychiatrists and pediatricians visit regularly at each campus. Children also have routine off-campus appointments for dental and eye care as needed.


Both campuses have outdoor playgrounds, soccer and ball fields, indoor gymnasiums and play space. Children are recognized on birthdays and celebrated with parties. Holidays, big and little, are cause for celebration, including Thanksgiving meals, Halloween trick-or-treating and a Christmas program. Santa also visits both campuses every year. The first day of school (held annually in August, even though children attend year-round) is a big event and school pictures are taken. As children develop the skills needed to be safe off-campus, we build in field trips to parks, parades, movies, swimming pools, cultural activities and other community events. Children in residential treatment, just like all children, benefit from play and new opportunities to learn and grow.

As a child progresses in treatment, their entire team is involved in planning for discharge from residential treatment and works with outside providers to ensure the discharge home is as successful as possible.