What Makes Treatment Foster Care So Special
By A.J. Ortiz, BSW, Foster Parent Recruiter, SAFY of Colorado
In July 2013, a group of state and county government agencies, foster parents, mental and behavioral health advocates, licensed child placement agencies and other stakeholders convened to develop a Treatment Foster Care model for Colorado. Their goal was to expand Colorado’s continuum of care and reduce the number of children and youth in out-of-home care who live in a residential treatment facility or a group home. In November 2014, five county departments of human services and eight child placement agencies collaborated to pilot Treatment Foster Care in Colorado. During this piloting stage, one child placement agency, SAFY (Specialized Alternatives for Families and Youth), licensed 10 Treatment Foster Care homes that provided treatment to 15 young people.
Is it the training they receive to offer trauma-informed care, or is it helping children learn positive coping skills to deal with stress? Maybe it’s their ability to understand, recognize and respond to the effects of trauma while providing stability and guidance to youth in their care. So what makes Treatment Foster Care parents so special? It’s all of that and more — the patience, empathy and time invested in kids who deserve the chance to have a happy, normal childhood.
In Colorado, social service agencies are introducing a new foster care model for youth who have experienced trauma. Known as Treatment Foster Care, the services provide assistance to manage complex trauma issues stemming from abuse and/or neglect and removal from the home environment. SAFY of Colorado (Specialized Alternatives for Families and Youth) is among the first in the state to offer the Treatment Foster Care model and specialized training for Treatment Foster Care parents.
To give our foster parents the best tools to help youth succeed, SAFY of Colorado provides specialized trauma-informed training to ensure our Treatment Foster Care parents understand the impact of trauma and how to help youth in their care. SAFY Treatment Foster Care focuses on youth aged 5-18 for those who really need help and who have not reached their potential through residential treatment. We are filling a gap for kids who deserve a chance to have a normal childhood.
Treatment Foster Care training involves very specific interventions for tough behaviors. Providing emotional security, stability and guidance are first steps toward promoting positive experiences and resilience. SAFY’s Model of Care provides ongoing training, support and weekly clinical visits to wrap our families and youth in support. Other ways SAFY of Colorado supports Treatment Foster Care is through activity-based therapy such as yoga, painting, playing dress-up or with toys, and time with Tiller, our Animal-Assisted Therapy dog.
SAFY Treatment Foster Care parents complete training over a 10-week period. To start the process, a SAFY recruiter meets with the family. We conduct thorough background checks and complete a home study. Foster parents receive 30 hours of training focused on trauma-informed care. Weekly in-home clinical visits with parents and youth teach stress management and coping skills. Family work is led by the same clinician on a weekly basis to develop the consistency that has been lacking in the lives of many youth. We also offer a 24/7 on-call line.
According to the Colorado Department of Human Services Division of Child Welfare, there are 2,127 children and youth living with a foster family, and an average of five children will be placed in foster care every day. With only 1,915 certified foster homes throughout Colorado, social services agencies are always in need of foster homes, particularly families who are willing to care for children with special needs, sibling groups and older youth.
“At SAFY, we equate abuse to a child who has experienced a traumatic event in their life, and our clinical staff and foster parents provide what is called trauma-informed care to youth. Trauma-informed care focuses on the physical, psychological and emotional well-being of a child who has experienced abuse or neglect. Some of the methods SAFY clinical staff use are art, play, animal, and yoga therapy just to name a few that help children and families heal from traumatic events in their life,” said Veronica Farris, Chief Business Development & Marketing Officer, SAFY of America.
SAFY supports family preservation and/or reunification through multi-generational treatment services as well as Treatment Foster Care. SAFY of Colorado serves the Northern Front Range, including Boulder, Larimer and Weld counties, with offices in Greeley and Fort Collins. SAFY was founded in 1984, beginning in Ohio, and has continued to be a leading agency specializing in family preservation and reunification, therapeutic foster care, adoption services, older youth services and behavioral health. SAFY is located in nine states and remains a community leader in providing high quality, evidence-based services to children and families.