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Child & Adolescent Programs

Our Goals

We will work closely with your child to help identify stressors that may be causing difficulties. We also teach and implement a variety of coping skills to help your child deal more appropriately with situations that have previously been a source of distress. We constantly strive to give very good care.

Family Meetings

Family meetings are an integral part of our program. A clinician assigned by your child’s doctor will facilitate these meetings. This is an opportunity to be updated on the progress of your child’s treatment and to discuss important family issues.

Individual Time

Individual time with various staff is offered to your child throughout treatment to help understand problems, identify healthy coping skills, complete goals and develop positive plan of action.


Your child will attend a school time while hospitalized. With your permission, we will contact your child’s school. Please bring in schoolbooks as soon as possible to ensure that your child remains caught up with his or her studies.

Group therapies

Our program consists of several types of group therapies:

Child Goals group is an opportunity for your child to learn about one of our "7 Target Behaviors." These are reinforced throughout each day, and rewards are given for positive choices or behavior. This helps build an environment of wanting to do well.

Adolescent Goals group is an opportunity for your child to set and achieve goals related to specific issues. A care plan is developed which identifies three problem areas and short-term goals.

Expressive therapy offers a venue for your child to find ways to deal with feelings and problems in a variety of ways.

Fitness group encourages well-being, using exercise as a way to manage stress.

Psychotherapy is an open discussion group that focuses on specific issues with which your child or a peer may be struggling.

Therapy groups address specific topics such as communication and anger management and teach healthy coping skills.

Staying in touch

As a part of our confidentiality plan for your child’s hospitalization, he/she has been assigned a confidential code number. You will need identify this number when you call the unit regarding your child. Please give this number to immediate family members only.

Unit Phone Numbers

Once child is admitted, you will be given the program's appropriate phone number.

Telephone Use

Patients may receive calls between the hours of

  • Child Unit: Daily — 12:00 p.m. - 8 p.m.
  • Adolescent Unit: Daily — 12:00 p.m. - 8 p.m.

Suggested Visiting Times

  • Monday-Friday — 5:30 p.m. - 7 p.m.
  • Saturday-Sunday — 12:30 p.m. - 4 p.m. & 5:30 p.m. - 7 p.m.

We encourage visits from immediate family members only. If you are unable to visit at these times, please speak with staff, as these times are flexible.

Download a map with directions to Avera Behavioral Health Center

Medical team

We form a multi-disciplinary treatment team around your child based on his/her individual needs.

Your Child’s Medical Team

Attending Psychiatrists: Your child’s attending psychiatrist is a physician who leads your child’s medical team by developing an overall strategy to manage your child’s symptoms. They provide evaluations, prescribe medications and may offer other therapeutic interventions.

Psychologists/Clinicians: A psychologist/clinician may join your child’s treatment team at the request of your attending psychiatrist. Your child’s psychologist/clinician can provide individual and family therapy and psychological testing.

Psychiatry Residents: As a teaching hospital partnering with the USD Sanford School of Medicine, our psychiatry residents, who are medical doctors, are receiving additional education and training in the field of psychiatry. Psychiatry residents work closely with your attending psychiatrist and medical team to assist in your treatment.

A Nurse Practitioner will join your child’s medical team at the request of your attending psychiatrist. Your Nurse Practitioner will address any acute health issues that your child may have during his/her stay.

Your Child’s Support Team

Nursing Staff: Nursing staff oversees and orchestrates the overall functioning of the hospital unit. Your child will be assigned a nurse who will work with you to determine your child’s needs. Nursing staff will also be your advocate in communicating those needs to your child’s treatment team.

Social Workers: Social workers help your child prepare for returning home by connecting them with community resources. Social workers will also keep you updated as your child’s treatment progresses.

Behavioral Health Technicians: Behavioral health technicians contribute to the therapeutic environment of the hospital by organizing group sessions and encouraging your child to actively participate in their treatment. Behavioral health technicians also help ensure a safe environment and help make your child’s hospital stay as comfortable as possible. Behavioral health technicians have specialized training in the field of behavioral medicine.

Expressive Therapists/Education Coordinator: An expressive therapist leads interactive groups during your child’s hospital stay. These groups give your child the opportunity to learn new methods of coping with daily stressors. Your child will also be assigned an education coordinator who will work with your child’s home school, if requested, and assist to maintain his/her academic studies.

Case Manager: Your child’s case manager will contact your insurance company during your child’s admission process to make sure your insurance company is aware of his/her hospitalization.

Registered Dieticians and Dietary Assistant: Our dietician’s goal is to promote optimal nutrition status for all patients and make recommendations as needed.

Health Unit Coordinator: The health unit coordinator provides secretarial support to your child’s treatment team.

Nurse Manager: Our nurse manager and other management staff want to guarantee that we are providing your child with very good service every day. We appreciate any feedback you can give us to help improve our services.

Our Facility Team

Food Service: Our food service staff, led by a professional chef, provides your child with three nutritious and tasty meals per day. Menus are available to make your daily selections based on your tastes. Food service also makes a variety of snack items available through a pantry on your child’s unit.

Housekeeping: Housekeeping staff members keep the building looking clean and tidy by keeping your child’s room and day areas clean. Please assist by encouraging your child to keep his/her room clean and tidy.

Security: Security staff are available in the building 24/7 for your safety and security.

Maintenance: Our maintenance staff works hard to maintain the appearance and functionality of the building.

Chaplaincy Services: Partners in Healing

Our Chaplaincy staff is an ecumenical team of priests, sisters, ministers deacons and trained laity who regularly visit patients and families and respond to referrals from the hospital staff.

Our Chaplaincy staff seeks to respect the religious and spiritual beliefs and traditions of all the patients and families we serve. We work in collaboration with the pastors and religious leaders of our patients and will gladly contact your pastor or religious community upon request.

Spirituality/devotional group sessions are also held on the patient care units. Check with staff regarding times and locations at the end of this description.

Dismiss all anxiety from your minds. Present your needs to God in every form of prayer and in petitions full of gratitude. Then God’s own peace, which is beyond all understanding, will stand guard over your hearts and minds, in Christ Jesus.
-Philippians 4:6-7

Keeping your child safe

We have several systems to assure that your child is provided care in a safe environment.

Building Security

When visiting your child, you will notice that there are two sets of locked doors at the Avera Behavioral Health Center. One is located between the public area of the building and the visitor hallway. The other is located at the door of the unit. These locked doors provide your child a safe, confidential, private and therapeutic area to begin the healing process. When you arrive to visit your child, simply follow the instructions on the telephones located at every door to gain entry to the unit.

Code Numbers

For safety and security reasons, a code number will be given to you at the time of admission. When visiting or calling the unit, you must give the code number to verify your child as a patient. Please make sure visitors or callers are on the contact sheet that you completed on admission. Without the code number, information regarding your child will not be given.


Medications may be an important part of your child’s treatment. If your child’s psychiatrist makes the decision to place your child on medication for mood, emotion or behavior, you will be asked to sign or give verbal consent prior to the nurse administering the medication. The hospital will provide your child’s medications. As a safety measure, any medications brought in at the time of admission will be sent home with you. Your child’s psychiatrist will write prescriptions at the time of your child’s discharge. Prescriptions can be filled at the Behavioral Health Pharmacy.


For your child’s safety and security and with your permission, the nursing staff will take a picture of your child. This photograph is not a permanent part of the medical record and will be kept with our internal files for no longer than one year.

Close Observation

As requested by your child’s psychiatrist, your child’s whereabouts are closely monitored and documented by the team. Most children will be monitored every 15 minutes. If additional monitoring is needed, your child will be placed on constant line of sight or continuous one-on-one status.

Program guidelines

We have established guidelines to help ensure program success while your child is a patient at Avera McKennan.

Attending Groups

Your child will be expected to attend all groups, therapies and activities on time unless excused by staff.

Leaving the Unit

Your child must have a staff escort to leave the unit.

Patient Confidentiality

Your child is not allowed to exchange notes, phone numbers or e-mail addresses with other patients. It is very important for your child to maintain the confidentiality of other patients and not repeat issues discussed in group therapies.


For safety and identification, your child must wear an ID band and allergy band at all times.

Physical Contact

Physical contact with other patients is not allowed.

Room Privacy

Your child’s assigned room is the only patient room he or she may enter.

Room Checks

To ensure the safety of your child and the unit, staff may visit your child’s room several times each day. We will also search all personal items brought into the hospital. Please show all items to staff before taking them to your child.

Phone and Visiting Hours

Phone calls and visits will probably be beneficial for your child. However, at times, these may be counter-therapeutic. If the treatment team feels that visits or phone calls would not be beneficial, we will discuss that with you. Phone calls are limited to two total calls per day. We would appreciate keeping calls to ten minutes to allow other children the opportunity to talk with their families.

Keeping Rooms Clean

Unit duties, bed making, room cleaning and personal hygiene tasks are to be done daily. Laundry is to be done independently as needed with staff assistance.

What to bring

Your Child’s Belongings

For the safety and security of your child’s belongings, we will take inventory and keep secure on the unit. For your child’s safety and the safety of others, the following items are not allowed on the unit: cigarettes, chewing tobacco, alcohol, drugs, medications, anything sharp, belts, clothing with strings, clothing with inappropriate graphics or writing, cameras, cassette, video tapes or CDs. Buying, borrowing, stealing or trading of any items is not allowed.

Recommended Belongings List

While your child is hospitalized we would like them to be comfortable in attire and hygiene. Below are recommendations of items that we feel are appropriate and conducive to our environment and keeping your child comfortable and safe on our unit.

We recommend 3 days worth of clothing. On the children’s program staff will wash your child’s clothes every other day. On the Adolescent unit, your child will be responsible for washing his/her own clothes using the unit’s washer and dryer as needed, laundry soap will be provided.

Recommended Items:

  • Blue jeans (no holes)
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • P.J. top or bottom
  • Jogging pants (no strings in the waistband)
  • T-shirts, long and short sleeved
  • Sweatshirts
  • Polo shirt
  • Shorts in summer (child program only)

Items that we do not allow:

  • Tank Tops
  • Skirts or skorts
  • Dresses
  • Toys

Hygiene Items

We do provide shampoo, bars of soap, toothpaste, a toothbrush, and deodorant to your child should he/she not come with any. In the case that your child uses a special shampoo or soap please feel free to bring it. We would ask that the following be taken into consideration when selecting specific hygiene products to bring.

  • Nothing that has a pump style head
  • No aerosol cans
  • No electric toothbrushes
  • No mouthwash with alcohol in it

Child unit behavioral modification program

Seven Target Behaviors

The Child Wing of Avera Behavioral Health Center focuses on one or more of these seven target areas each day.

  1. Following Directions
  2. Asking For Help
  3. Keeping Boundaries
  4. Building Self Esteem
  5. Being Responsible
  6. Expressing Feelings
  7. Stopping, Thinking and Planning

Steps to Follow

Each of these target areas has its own steps to help make it easier for your child to follow:

1. Following Directions

a. Look at the person speaking.

b. Say “okay”.

c. Do what is asked.

d. Do not argue.

2. Asking For Help

a. Decide what you need help with.

b. Decide who can help you.

c. Look at the person when you ask for help.

d. Say "please" and be specific with what you need.

e. Say "thank you".

3. Keeping Boundaries

a. Keep an arms length away from others (“keep your bubble”).

b. Do not touch others.

4. Building Self Esteem

a. Recognize positive things about me.

b. Build on the positives.

c. Ignore the put downs.

d. Take care of me (hygiene).

5. Being Responsible

a. Own up to your own behaviors.

b. Do not blame others.

c. Accept the consequences.

6. Expressing Feelings

a. Look at the person.

b. Use a calm voice.

c. Talk about what you are feeling.

7. Stopping, Thinking and Planning

a. Stop what you are doing.

b. Think about what you should do.

c. Make a plan to follow.

d. Do the plan.

Child unit positive reward system

Children respond well to a positive reward system because the focus is on positive behavior instead of negative behavior.

Positive Reward System

On the Child Wing at Avera Behavioral Health Center, tokens are used for a special time called "recess". There is a recess break every two to three hours. Your child’s treatment team uses this time to give a positive reward. Some examples of positive rewards include gym time, computer time and special one-on-one time with staff.

If your child is being disruptive, we can remove them from the environment to a quiet area to calm down. Our goal is to avoid focusing on your child’s negative behavior.

Our Challenge to You

We encourage you to provide positive reinforcement to your child about every 15 minutes. It can be praise such as, "Great Job!" It can be a smile. It can also be a "token". Try to catch your child being good and reward the positive behavior. When focusing on negative behaviors, your child may seek attention by behaving negatively. Focusing on positive actions encourages your child to gain attention by behaving positively.

Keeping Your Child on Task

When completing an activity, is your child able to stay on task? When using the positive reward system, focus your attention on your child’s ability to stay on task and follow directions. Use a word of praise and give your child a token when they respond well.

Handling Negative Behaviors

If your child displays negative behaviors, it is important not to focus on the negatives. Remember to stay firm when setting limits and provide logical consequences without overreacting. Your child will test you. Remain positive and encourage your child without giving in. When experiencing difficulty with your child, the first step in changing behavior is to ask politely. If a firmer approach is needed, use "I" messages. Examples of "I" messages include: "I feel," or "I would like… ."

When "I" messages are not strong enough to motivate a change in behavior, then use logical consequences. Logical consequences are those that you, as the parent, deliberately enforce to show your child what consequences logically follow when family rules are broken.

Focus on the Positive

The main thing to remember is to focus on the positive, not the negative. Be consistent. This program takes practice and it is hard work. If you have any questions, please ask any member of the treatment team for further explanation, examples or opportunities to shadow the staff for a few hours.

Adolescent unit behavioral modification program

This program is used to create a positive way to change your child’s behavior and provides a system for rewarding his or her positive outcomes.

Adolescent Level and Reward System

Avera Adolescent Program utilizes a positive reinforcement system to help enhance confidence by rewarding positive behavior. Patients are able to earn points for participating in treatment, respecting peers and staff, attending groups on time and being prepared, and following through on the list of unit guidelines. Earning all possible points in a day will lead to an increase in a level, while losing 5 or more points will result in a decrease in 1 level. Each new level offers a reward for the positive behaviors of the day(s) before. Rewards range from using a deck of cards, to watching a movie in the dining room while their peers are in their rooms for quiet time. The system also provides the staff with an assessment of routine behaviors that may need to be addressed to help lessen the stress of each adolescent in their residential/academic environments.

Discharge planning

Discharge planning is an ongoing process that begins at the time of admission.

Making Follow-up Appointments

An important part of managing your child’s illness is good follow-up care with providers in your community. Your child’s treatment team will work with you to schedule follow-up appointments to provide ongoing management of your child’s medication (if any), and individual and/or family therapy.

Please share your preferences for follow-up care with your child’s social worker, who can help you learn about psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors and case managers in your area.

Communicating With Your Hometown Doctors

With your written permission we are able to provide your child’s hometown doctors, counselors and case managers with a summary of the treatment your child received at Avera Behavioral Health Center. Please speak to your child’s social worker or nurse if you would like records sent to any of your child’s local providers.

Day of Discharge

On the day of discharge, your child’s attending psychiatrist will write the discharge orders. The orders include details about what medicines, if any, your child should be taking at home and also any follow-up needed.

You will be asked to complete a survey about the care your child received.

Your nurse will prepare discharge instructions. These instructions will include any appointments scheduled and a listing of medications. Prescriptions for your child’s medicines will also be provided at this time.

Insurance Precertification

When you are admitted to Avera Behavioral Health Center we start working for you by verifying your insurance benefits and calling your insurance company to preauthorize your admission.

Our case manager will continue to follow up with your insurance company periodically to make sure you are covered throughout your stay. If you have any concerns about your insurance coverage, please ask to speak to your case manager.

Questions About Your Bill

If you do not have any insurance coverage or have balances due after your insurance has paid your claim, we will work with you to make appropriate financial arrangements.

Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center Business Office:
(605) 322-6400 • Monday - Friday • 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Additional Customer Service Numbers:
Medicare: 1-800-247-2267
SD Division of Insurance: (605) 773-3653

A patient advocate is also available to help you navigate the process of applying for financial assistance for health care. Contact the patient advocate at 605-322-4302. Please be aware that you may receive a separate bill from your doctor’s office for physician fees. Please contact these clinics directly regarding the charges.


We want to help you manage your child’s condition by helping you find Self-help or Support Groups including different types of counseling or treatment.

Links to Community Resources

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) - NAMI has been dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness.
  • Find workplace solutions with Avera EAP. The Avera Employee Assistance Program provides outstanding, comprehensive and confidential services to companies, organizations, employees and their families.
  • The goal of Face It! is to promote acceptance of alcohol and other drug problems, overcome barriers to recovery and advance solutions to benefit the entire community.
  • SD Kids Mental Health is a set of resources for families and professionals to help in addressing the emotional wellness needs of children.
  • South Dakota Voices for Children - improving the lives of all South Dakota children through program and policy advocacy.

Contact the Following Organizations

  • Behavioral Health Center Assessment Program, Sioux Falls, SD
    Phone: 1-800-691-4336
  • Suicide Prevention - HELP! Line Center, Sioux Falls, SD
    Phone: (605) 211 or (605) 339-4357
  • NAMI SD - Sioux Falls, SD
    South Dakota Phone: (605) 338-3533
    Minnesota Phone: (651) 645-2948
  • South Dakota Parent Connection, Sioux Falls, SD
    Phone: 1-800-640-4553
  • Family Crisis Intervention - Volunteers of America, Sioux Falls, SD Phone: 1-800-365-8336 24 hour / 7 days a week

In Minnesota, the county is responsible for helping to provide public mental health services. Contact your county for more information about metal health education and prevention services.

Avera Medical Minute: TMS Therapy

Watch Dr. Matt Stanley and a patient discuss TMS Therapy.

National Institute of Mental Health Outreach Partnership Program

View updates regarding our partnership program and other available resources.