Family First Implementation Team weighs in on therapeutic foster care rules

September 14, 2020

In June 2020, 469 children and youth in foster care were living in a group home or residential treatment facility getting the behavioral support that they need. However, many of those 469 young people can and should be able to receive the care and services they need while growing up in a family setting.

Colorado has successfully been reducing the use of congregate care over the past ten years. In June 2010 approximately 20% of children and youth in foster care were in a congregate care facility. Today, that number is approximately 10%. As the state works to implement the Family First Prevention Services Act, a federal law reshaping child welfare across the nation, the effort to ensure a young person’s time in congregate care is necessary, treatment focused and temporary accelerates. Family First introduces a slew of changes to the child welfare system, including two that directly impact the settings in which children and youth receive care. 

  • The development of more specialized congregate care programs, which focus on the individualized needs of children and youth, including Qualified Residential Treatment Programs and specialized group homes and centers. Learn more.
  • The creation of a new level of care in which foster parents are specially trained to provide therapeutic services, so children and youth can overcome their past trauma in a family environment where we know they can thrive.

With stakeholder feedback, the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) has been drafting new rules to define the requirements to be certified as a therapeutic foster family. The Family First Implementation Team is involved in this work and especially interested in new rules to address the additional training that is required of therapeutic foster parents and rules to ensure treatment and care are culturally responsive.

“Foster parents receive initial training to become certified and then complete ongoing training each year,” Amy Hixson, the Licensing Manager for the CDHS Division of Child Welfare, says. “We’re working now to ensure additional training requirements for therapeutic foster parents are appropriate, realistic and also delivered at the right time. For our rules related to cultural responsiveness, this is something that is not typically defined in rule but we know it’s important and worth codifying. However, our broader understanding of what is culturally appropriate is always evolving so we need to balance providing firm guidance on what is expected while also allowing for growth and change.”

Review a draft of proposed therapeutic foster care rules.

In October, SubPAC, a policy advisory committee that makes formal policy recommendations to CDHS, will review these proposed rules and vote on whether or not to send them to the State Human Services Board to begin the final step in the approval process.

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