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There’s Foster Care—Then There’s Treatment Foster Care

Another Level of Love, Compassion & Need!

There is a much greater level of foster care needed and the need is growing.  The answer is  Treatment Foster Care (TFC. Treatment Foster Care, or therapeutic foster care, requires parents with specialized training to care for kids with more serious emotional, behavioral, or social challenges because of past trauma. It gives children in out-of-home care a safe and nurturing home in a more structured environment than typical or regular foster care and offers a cost-effective alternative to residential treatment.

A CLOSER LOOK AT FOSTER CARE IN THE U.S.

According to recent federal data, more than 400,000 children now live in foster care in the United States, from infants to 21 (in some states). Kids ages 1 to 5 make up the largest share (30% in 2020) of chil­dren enter­ing care. The average age is about 8 years old, and there are more boys than girls. Of those kids, about 117,000 are waiting to be adopted.

In 2020, 213,964 children under 18 entered foster care in the United States. Kids cycle in and out of the foster care and adoption systems but usually spend about a year in foster care. More than half are eventually reunified with their parents or caregivers. About 25 percent are adopted, many by foster parents. The goal of most foster care placements is to provide a temporary home that gives children and teens a safe place to live when their parents or primary caregivers are going through a crisis; while meeting emotional, physical, educational, medical, and recreational needs; and to safely reunite them with their families.

Many of these children have challenging behaviors because they have experienced some form of trauma,  As a result, they exhibit emotional fragility, impulsive behavior, learning disabilities, Loss and Attachment Disorder, post-traumatic stress, and oppositional and verbally aggressive behaviors among others.

TREATMENT FOSTER CARE GOES FURTHER FOR THOSE CHILDREN WHO NEED IT

Treatment Foster Care serves children who have complex problems due to experiencing severe trauma and their behaviors are difficult for regular foster homes to manage. Many children in treatment foster care have failed in traditional care because parents do not possess the training and understanding needed to care for the behaviors exhibited. However, Treatment Foster care parents are required to help children with trauma issues and are trained in being trauma-informed and to provide a healing environment. Therapeutic foster care parents also learn improved coping skills and how to manage some of the most challenging scenarios as part of training.

MEET SOLACE – WHAT A DIFFERENCE IN JUST THREE YEARS

For a wonderful TFC success story, meet Solace. When he entered treatment foster care, his obstacles included social anxiety, depression, lack of motivation and hopelessness. He had difficulties maintaining employment, but with the strong support of his foster mom, foster family and mentor Maurice Harris, Solace has maintained regular employment for the last two years.

“Being separated from my family is depressing and it still bothers me at times,” he says. “But being in care has made me realize that your family is who you make them to be.”

“I’ve been blessed with a loving foster mom who never once implied that I was a foster child. She made me feel like one of her own and makes me feel like a real sibling along with her own kids. My foster family taught me that rather than looking down on someone, it’s better to give them a hand up. I will always remember the importance of giving and giving back,” Solace added.

Over the last year, he worked in the exit youth program called, Ready by 21, got his driver’s license, bought his own car, and will be attending a trade school for plumbing. The conflict resolution and other training he received from TFC gave him skills that he says he will carry for the rest of his life.

“For a student who struggled with emotional and social issues just three years ago, these are extraordinary achievements,” says Maurice Harris. “Solace is a considerate young man who shows concern for others and has a pleasant disposition. He’s the kind of young man who has learned to care for others’ needs above his own.”

Solace just earned a Maryland Association of Resources for Families and Youth (MARFY) achievement award, and was honored during the annual MARFY dinner and awards ceremony.

TFC works!

SEE HOW BEING A TREATMENT FOSTER PARENT WORKS AT THE CHILDREN’S GUILD

The Children’s Guild (TCG), whose mission is to provide individualized transformational experiences to ensure children, families, and communities thrive, is one of many organizations that work in treatment foster care.

“We are always looking for the special parents and families willing to provide a special level of care to children in need in Baltimore City and County, and Anne Arundel, Harford, and Howard counties,” says Joy Zollinger, Managing Director, Residential Services for The Children’s Guild “With all our parents, we offer professional development and ongoing training, and our program adheres to the best practices and program standards of the Family Focused Treatment Association” (FFTA). FFTA has listed over 495 member organizations working in treatment foster care across North America, including TCG.

Full support from TFC professional staff means weekly contact with families and the foster youth in the home. These staff members are responsible for the monitoring of the placement and assisting with providing placement stability. Staff not only provide support and guidance for the foster youth, but for the foster parents as well. This support includes 24/7 on-call services, case management, coordinating services for children (such as therapy, psychiatry, etc.), and implementing therapeutic interventions when necessary. “We provide respite services for parents and a tax-free stipend for foster childcare. Also, families receive training, supervision, and ongoing support from local organizations.” added Zollinger.

Children are still in need of safe and nurturing foster homes during this critical time, and The Children’s Guild is actively recruiting treatment foster parents. TCG offers regular informational meetings via Zoom where  those interested  can find out more about our fostering program and ask questions.

For more information about Treatment in Foster Care or to become a Foster Parent, please  go to our website [email protected] or contact us at 443-829-5684 

“Please join us for our next informational meeting, even if you’re just curious!” says Kay Brazile, MLT, BSc, Admission Coordinator.

IT’S A BIG BUT REWARDING JOB. ARE YOU UP FOR IT?

It is challenging to be a therapeutic foster parent, but also extremely rewarding. Foster parents who choose to provide care to higher needs kids can make incredible differences in the lives of children who so desperately need it.

It takes a tremendous amount of patience, resilience, creativity, resourcefulness, humor, and love. When these are provided to a troubled child, healing begins. Becoming a treatment foster care parent is a special gift you can give to a child in need, as well as yourself.

Make a difference in the life of a child—Become a Therapeutic Foster Parent!

Julia Benford’s Story: Parenting Children in Need

Julia Benford is a retired trauma technician with a lifetime of experience caring for people. She has a deep desire to help others and she shows that by being a big part of our Treatment Foster Care program. She has been a part of the program for two-and-a-half years, fostering three children in that time. Mrs. Benford has taken on the responsibility to care for children most people would find difficult to handle and she cares for them as if they are her own. Upon reflection of her experiences, Mrs. Benford says, “It is rewarding to see positive changes in a child and know that I am helping them by giving them loving care in a safe environment.”

What kind of person steps up to care for children most people would find difficult to handle? Meet Julia Benford, a retired trauma technician with a lifetime of experience caring for people. It’s no surprise she’s married to a retired firefighter, one of her daughters is a clinical social worker, and she has a grandson who just joined the Navy. The desire to help others runs deep in her family.

Mrs. Benford felt a calling to care for children in need, and she chose to work with The Children’s Guild Treatment Foster Care program because “it offered the support I knew I would need.” Treatment Foster Care parents are highly trained and supervised to care for children with complex problems and behavioral issues due to childhood trauma. 

Mrs. Benford has fostered three children in her two-and-a-half years as a Treatment Foster Care parent. Maya,* a two-year-old girl, was recently reunited with her family. She had been drug-exposed and was failing to thrive when she arrived at the Benford’s home. “I attended feeding classes, and Maya spent the first six months sleeping on my chest because she wouldn’t let me put her down,” says Mrs. Beneford. Maya also had plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome), and Mrs. Benford maintained consistent therapy to shape Maya’s head. With all of these challenges, Mrs. Benford says, “Seeing Maya leave was the hardest part.” 

Mrs. Benford currently fosters two boys, Jeremy* and C.J.* In the year leading up to placement with Mrs. Benford, Jeremy had three placements with different agencies. With The Children’s Guild’s support, Mrs. Benford has been able to maintain him.

Jeremy demonstrated verbal and physical aggression and was diagnosed with intellectual disability and post-traumatic stress disorder. Mrs. Benford attended almost daily intensive therapy with him. She says, “Most people find caring for Jeremy overwhelming because he has multiple issues and delays, but he would become a statistic if we did not help him.” There has been a learning curve for meeting his individual needs, and she has played a significant role in ensuring he receives the necessary therapy and care.

C.J. is a 16-month-old infant that Mrs. Benford has cared for since he was four days old. C.J. was drug-exposed and has numerous developmental delays, but he is finally starting to walk. She says, “He is wonderful,” and describes him as “cute and sweet” and having a personality that has charmed her whole family.

It takes a tremendous amount of fortitude and hard work to be a Treatment Foster Care parent. Upon reflection of her experiences, Mrs. Benford says, “It is rewarding to see positive changes in a child and know that I am helping them by giving them loving care in a safe environment.”

*Names changed to protect children’s privacy.

The Academy for Working Students: Helping High School Students Graduate

High school students who work face unique challenges. While they may thrive in the workforce and benefit from the financial gains and real-life experience of holding a job, they often have difficulty balancing work and school. They need educators who understand their situation and can help them stay on track to graduate. The Children’s Guild Alliance launched The Academy for Working Students (TAWS) to address the struggles of working high school seniors. The innovative TAWS program gives students the opportunity to create a flexible school schedule that fits around their work commitments. Students receive support from mentors and career coaches and develop individual career plans to boost their graduation success.

High school students who work face unique challenges. While they may thrive in the workforce and benefit from the financial gains and real-life experience of holding a job, they often have difficulty balancing work and school. They need educators who understand their situation and can help them stay on track to graduate.

The Children’s Guild Alliance launched The Academy for Working Students (TAWS) to address the struggles of working high school seniors. The innovative TAWS program gives students the opportunity to create a flexible school schedule that fits around their work commitments. Students receive support from mentors and career coaches and develop individual career plans to boost their graduation success.

“A full-day school schedule did not work for me,” says Alexandra Tsytsareva, who worked 30-37 hours per week at a childcare center while participating in TAWS. A very independent person at an early age, Ms. Tsytsareva says, “TAWS gave me the ability to manage my own schedule and have responsibility over my life.” She graduated high school this spring and is pursuing a degree in education at City College of New York. She looks forward to a career in early childhood education and one day owning a childcare center.

Genesis Velasquez joined TAWS after discovering she was pregnant. “I wanted to get my diploma on time but needed flexibility,” she says. Through TAWS she was able to graduate from high school and stay at home with her child. Ms. Velasquez works part-time as a dog sitter and is exploring other work-from-home opportunities. She plans to attend Montgomery College and is interested in becoming a certified personal trainer and having a career in the health industry.

Roderick Dreher enrolled in TAWS so he could support his family during a time of crisis. His older brother had been critically injured in a car accident and required around-the-clock care. His younger sister was just starting kindergarten and needed help getting ready for school. Even before his brother’s accident, Mr. Dreher had held a job at a local retirement community. By participating in TAWS, Mr. Dreher could pick up additional shifts at work and still help out at home.

He graduated with his class and was able to attend school events when his schedule allowed. He says, “It was difficult, but I feel prepared for the future, and I don’t feel like I missed out on the high school experience.” He is majoring in biology at Coppin State University with the goal of becoming a pharmacist. 

Creating Citizens of the World

Recently, second-grade teachers from Monarch Academy Glen Burnie were inspired to travel to Ethiopia. Their interest in Ethiopia was sparked after author Jane Kurtz led a workshop for students on how to write children’s books. Ms. Kurtz shared experiences from her childhood in Ethiopia and her work with Ethiopia Reads and Open Hearts Big Dreams, two organizations that partner to provide books to children in Ethiopia. Second-grade teachers, Ms. Legambi, Sonja Bolotin and Molly Malloy, along with art teacher Sam Green, traveled to Ethiopia at the end of the school year. Now, when second-graders at Monarch Academy Glen Burnie study school communities, their teachers will use pictures from their trip and tell personal stories about the schools they visited and the people they met. “It was an extremely humbling experience to see the challenges students in Ethiopia face,” says Ms. Bolotin. She sees opportunities to grow empathy in her students and looks forward to conveying the Ethiopian students’ hunger for education. “It will have a profound effect when we share these experiences.”

Monarch Academy develops globally-minded students through a curriculum infused with diversity and authentic learning experiences. “We believe students should become ethical people who affect the world positively,” says Kim Jakovics, principal of Monarch Academy Glen Burnie. “It’s very much a part of our curriculum pedagogy to understand other cultures and places.”

This year, second-grade teachers from her school were inspired to travel to Ethiopia following an Expeditionary Learning journey that incorporated the country’s culture, language and history. Their interest in Ethiopia was sparked by a visit from award-winning author Jane Kurtz,  who led a workshop for students on how to write children’s books. Ms. Kurtz shared experiences from her childhood in Ethiopia and her work with Ethiopia Reads and Open Hearts Big Dreams, two organizations that partner to provide books to children in Ethiopia. 

The second graders were studying pollinators the week of the workshop, so their teachers suggested they write a book about the importance of bee pollination for agriculture in Ethiopia. “From school communities to fossils, the teachers found connections between Ethiopia and what the second graders were studying,” says art teacher Sam Green. She collaborated with the teachers to have the students illustrate the book.

“We worked all year on the book,” says second-grade teacher Jenna Legambi. Their efforts paid off. The book is being published and distributed by Open Hearts Big Dreams to children in Ethiopia, and it will also be available on Amazon. 

Moved by their dedication, Ms. Kurtz encouraged the teachers to visit Ethiopia and see firsthand the things they had been teaching their students. Through grants and support from their students and school, all of the second-grade teachers, Ms. Legambi, Sonja Bolotin and Molly Malloy, along with art teacher Sam Green, traveled to Ethiopia at the end of the school year.

Now, when second-graders at Monarch Academy Glen Burnie study school communities, their teachers will use pictures from their trip and tell personal stories about the schools they visited and the people they met. “It was an extremely humbling experience to see the challenges students in Ethiopia face,” says Ms. Bolotin. She sees opportunities to grow empathy in her students and looks forward to conveying the Ethiopian students’ hunger for education. “It will have a profound effect when we share these experiences.”

Devin’s Story: Sharing the Joy of Baseball

Devin is a 7-year-old second-grade student at The Children’s Guild School of Prince George’s County. He has Asperger’s, a developmental and social disability on the higher end of the autism spectrum, and his mother is cautious about trying out new things and putting Devin into unfamiliar environments. When given the opportunity to participate in League of Dreams, Mrs. Murray says, “I didn’t know how my son would respond.” Even though she had her concerns, she took Devin and his two brothers to participate in the events and learn the game of baseball together. “That first experience sparked something in Devin. He loved it, and he really took to the game.” Not only has there been growth and development in Devin, but cultivating a shared interest in baseball has opened the doors for Mrs. Murray’s children to do more things together as a family

Children with emotional and physical challenges have a need to be accepted and given the same opportunities as their peers. Learning a sport, especially one as popular as baseball, is a great way to engage children at all levels. “So many kids are boxed into certain categories. Giving them the chance to play ball inspires growth and the freedom to express themselves,” says Mike Bordick, chair of League of Dreams and a retired professional baseball shortstop who played in Major League Baseball with the Baltimore Orioles, New York Mets, Oakland Athletics, and Toronto Blue Jays.

This year, The Children’s Guild Alliance launched a formal partnership with the League of Dreams to host a series of sports events and develop a curriculum for teaching baseball and softball skills to children with disabilities. The excitement surrounding the partnership continues to grow as more students are introduced to the joy of playing baseball.

“I didn’t know how my son would respond,” says Nicole Murray, mother of 7-year old Devin, a second-grade student at The Children’s Guild School of Prince George’s County. He has Asperger’s, a developmental and social disability on the higher end of the autism spectrum. Mrs. Murray is always cautious about trying out new things and had concerns about how well Devin would be able to listen to instructions and work in a team environment. Her fears were allayed by the patience of the staff. “That first experience sparked something in Devin. He loved it, and he really took to the game.”

Devin has two brothers, and when they attended a weekend League of Dreams event, they were invited to participate as well. Cultivating a shared interest in baseball has opened the doors for Mrs. Murray’s children to do more things together as a family. They recently went to a Nationals’ game, and she was thrilled to see how interested and focused Devin was on the game.

In addition to offering a full-body workout and enhancing gross motor skills, learning how to play baseball and softball teaches the value of teamwork, develops mental focus, and encourages personal growth and confidence. “Teaching kids how to play ball is not a one-time experience. It has a lasting impact and offers lifelong lessons,” says Mr. Bordick.

TranZed Apprenticeships: Transforming the Workforce Through Apprenticeships

“I owe my new career to TranZed Apprenticeships,” says Patrick McLean, an apprentice and junior programmer for Amports, a premier automotive services company and port terminal operator. When employers were not willing to take a risk and allow Mr. McLean to transition from the mental health field to the technology industry, TranZed Apprenticeships offered an alternative pathway for Mr. McLean to gain the skills he needed and make the much-desired career change.  “TranZed Apprenticeships gave me the opportunity to start my career,” says Kenya Foster, an apprentice and junior programmer for Amports. Ms. Foster was a recent graduate with a computer science degree struggling to find a job because of her lack of experience. Now she has jump-started her career and is furthering her education in a master’s program. She credits the apprenticeship experience with teaching her valuable skills such as time management, organization and how to prioritize.

“I owe my new career to TranZed Apprenticeships,” says Patrick McLean, an apprentice and junior programmer for Amports, a premier automotive services company and port terminal operator. Mr. McLean had been working in the mental health field and taking programming courses on the side. He wanted to move into the technology industry, but no employer was willing to take the risk and give him the break he needed to switch careers.

TranZed Apprenticeships offered an alternative pathway for Mr. McLean to gain the skills he needed and make the much-desired career change – all while continuing to earn a salary. “TranZed Apprenticeships connected me with a company that wanted to invest in me,” says Mr. McLean. The apprenticeship opportunity provided a supportive employer where he received on-the-job training and was allowed to participate in more than 144 hours of classroom training.

TranZed Apprenticeships supports transformative workforce solutions through a range of programs that advance modern-day, non-traditional apprenticeships in technology, cybersecurity, digital and social media, data science and analytics, and as medical assistants. These programs source driven, talented, and committed employees for entry to mid-level positions.

“Being an apprentice builds a better foundation for your future career and helps you learn the business from the ground up,” says Kenya Foster, who is also an apprentice and junior programmer with Amports. She was fresh out of college with a degree in computer science but had very little work experience. “TranZed Apprenticeships gave me the opportunity to start my career.”

Ms. Foster has benefitted from being surrounded by experienced colleagues who have been willing to teach her and help her grow professionally. While it may seem daunting to some, Ms. Foster has recently started an online master’s degree program. She credits the apprenticeship experience with teaching her valuable skills such as time management, organization and how to prioritize.

Businesses that support apprenticeships gain loyal, productive, long-term employees. Both Mr. McLean and Ms. Foster are excited to be building their skills toward a CompTIA Network + certification. They will soon graduate from the apprenticeship program and look forward to continuing their careers with Amports.