May is National Foster Care Month, and one of the services we offer in Ketchikan and on Prince of Wales Island is therapeutic foster care, or TFC for short. To provide some insight into this program, we’re happy to present this Q&A with our Foster Care Manager II Corey Goheen about how our program works and how it can benefit children in our community.
Question: What is therapeutic foster care?
Answer: Therapeutic Foster Care, sometimes called Treatment Foster Care, is an out of home alternative placement for children who can no longer live at home due to a variety of reasons. It is an intense and individualized treatment model that occurs within a home that provides safety and support, while also working with the youth to reach goals on their mental health treatment plan. The therapeutic foster parent works closely as part of the treatment team at Community Connections in part of the treatment planning process to discuss progress; needs and goals the child has; or needs to work on. Then they take that treatment plan as a tool to help them work with the child in the family’s home environment. It is not the same as traditional or regular foster care in that it adds a therapeutic clinical support or element into the home to help youth diagnosed with a mental health disorder thrive and reach their goals.
Q: How are children referred to the program?
A: Children are referred to Community Connections from outside agencies or guardians, such as the Office of Children Services, tribal organizations, Department of Juvenile Justice, or sometimes through private or “voluntary” placements where the parent is seeking assistance for their child through therapeutic foster care services. Once a guardian of a youth makes the decision they would like to submit a referral to Community Connections for therapeutic foster care, their first step is to contact me to begin the screening and matching process to see if the youth is a great fit for the program.
Q: Does any other agency provide TFC in this area?
A: There are no other child placement agencies on Prince of Wales. Residential Youth Care is a licensed child placement agency in Ketchikan.
Q: How many children are in TFC homes on POW and in Ketchikan?
A: Currently we have a total of 29 youth in therapeutic foster care at Community Connections.
Q: How often are children evaluated once they enter the program?
A: A child in therapeutic foster care is re-evaluated for this service every 90 days.
Q: How can a TFC home benefit children?
A: TFC homes benefit children by providing the love and structure of a traditional foster home, while adding a clinical approach for children who experience mental health concerns so that we can meet their clinical needs in the least restrictive environment. Therapeutic foster parents have support from a clinical team to help them through struggles that youth may be experiencing and to give them guidance on how to best approach different needs. TFC is really individualized, and the foster parents are trained in mental health, trauma informed care, resiliency, and other areas to make them qualified to provide this level of care in their home settings.
Q: What do you look for in TFC parents?
A: Heart and dedication to the children is Number 1. They show this by their great care, commitment to ongoing learning to meet children’s unique needs, and connecting and advocating for each youth that comes thru their doorway. They need to be dependable, caring, have a great routine in their home, work collaboratively with others, and advocate professionally with the agency and other agencies that work with the youth.
Q: How has Covid affected the TFC program?
A: The past year and a half through the coronavirus pandemic has been difficult and caused chaos for so many in different ways. It can also be extremely difficult for more vulnerable populations, such as foster youth, who experience mental health symptoms to get their needs met in school and other community and social avenues. We are so fortunate to have the amazing and essential, committed and caring therapeutic foster parents at Community Connections as they continued to provide excellent advocacy, care and dedication to the children in their homes when they need it most during a time they needed consistency and compassion.
Our foster parents never looked away from serving foster youth who have mental health needs during this time. In fact, they excelled and continued to advocate and love the children in their homes through this pandemic, knowing that despite whatever is going on in the world their work was not done. Community Connections therapeutic foster parents demonstrated and modeled resilience factors in their homes daily by offering connection and security to youth. They spent late nights, and sometimes all-nighters or early wee morning times, showing their dedication to them by standing by their side in days and moments of uncertainty and giving them a stable, safe adult to talk to. They continued to keep their doors open in a time when most doors were closed for the kids, and they showed patience and re-established strong connections with youth in their home to help them get through this uncertain time.
Thank you for always trying your best, doing what you can, and showing up and opening your doors for youth in therapeutic foster care. We appreciate all that you do, every moment of every day in your home.
Q: Who can people contact with questions, referrals, or applications to become a therapeutic foster care family?
A: Corey Goheen, Foster Care Manager II
Phone: (907) 826-3891