Most people have heard of traditional foster care, which gives youth a safe and stable home environment after they are removed from their home of origin. Foster parents in this role work hard to make sure they are meeting the child’s needs of safety, shelter, and stability.
While every child in any type of foster care has experienced the trauma of being removed from their home environment, some children’s traumatic experiences and mental health diagnoses qualify them for a more specialized form of care called Therapeutic Foster Care, or TFC for short.
At its core, TFC is about providing not just a loving and supportive home, but a treatment-focused and structured home environment to facilitate healing and growth. It is a clinical intervention for youth with significant mental, emotional, and behavioral health needs. TFC foster parents undergo specialized training and learn how to use trauma-informed parenting techniques that specifically address the unique needs of their foster child.
KidsPeace practices a trauma-informed and evidence-based model for TFC called Together Facing the Challenge (TFTC), developed by Duke University. It prioritizes reducing the youth’s symptoms and problematic behaviors and increasing their strengths. It’s a highly collaborative and dynamic model that requires commitment from both agency staff and foster parents.
In Together Facing the Challenge training sessions, we talk a lot about how relationships are at the heart of what we do in therapeutic foster care; relationships between the foster parent and foster child, between the foster parent and the agency, and between the foster youth and the agency. All these essential relationships need to be built on the solid ground of trust, respect, and communication.
When parents practice trauma-informed parenting, they take each child’s past experiences into consideration at every step of treatment. This individualized care is so important because it helps parents and other treatment team members to both learn and avoid triggers and create opportunities for healing.
With a bond supported by nurturing care and trust, youth are given the space to process their experiences and share their hopes for the future – with the help of mental health professionals, agency staff, and foster parents.
At the end of the day, what we want to do is to help foster parents raise healthy and confident kids. Whether their permanency plan is reunification, aging out of care, or adoption, our youth need to have the support and resources to fully prepare for their next steps. I am constantly impressed and humbled by the amount of time, effort, and love our TFC parents put into their relationships with the kids they serve.
If you’re reading this and thinking that becoming a TFC foster parent might be the right next step for you, give us a call! You could be the one to make all the difference for a child or teen who needs a place to call home.
Caitlin DeLatte is Manager of Community Partnerships at KidsPeace Foster Care and Community Programs in Columbia, Maryland.