Questions about Treatment Foster Care and Referrals?
Please contact Kennedy Smith, Family Resource Specialist
404-875-4551 ext 159
Treatment Foster Care In Atlanta, GA
Every child deserves to feel loved and nurtured, but sometimes, parents are not able to provide the best care for their children. What happens to children who may not be in the most nurturing, stable environments? What if their family life is unsafe?
When a child is removed from his or her family, they are often placed in foster care. Foster care is a challenging experience for the child, parents and other family members. However, families who have a child in foster care are not alone — in fact, the number of children in foster care is increasing. In 2015, an estimated 427,444 American children were in foster care. That number rose to 437,465 in 2016.
In Georgia alone, 10,935 children lived in out-of-home care in 2015 — an increase from the 7591 children in 2011. The average number of children in the foster care system in Georgia each day is 12,700. Each day, the state receives about 200 reports of child abuse or neglect, and 33 of those are confirmed cases. In 2014, 99 Georgia children died from abuse and neglect. A majority of the children who die from those circumstances are under the age of three.
Many children in foster care have undergone traumatic experiences during the most critical developmental time of their lives. They may have mental health problems resulting from neglect or abuse. For this reason, children in foster care need particular attention to help them feel secure about themselves and around others.
Traditional foster care is not always enough to help a child heal and grow. Treatment foster care or therapeutic foster care is an alternative that offers hope for both the child and their family. On this page, we are going to answer common questions about treatment foster care.
We understand — raising a child is not easy for anyone. Sometimes the best choice a parent or caregiver can make is to reach out for help when parenting becomes overwhelming.
What Is Treatment Foster Care?
Treatment foster care (TFC) provides a safe, stable and nurturing home environment for foster children who have emotional or behavioral needs. It is a family-based residential treatment program that allows the child to experience healthy parent-to-child relationships in an environment that promotes growth and healing.
The goal of TFC is to place a child in a specially-trained TFC home with parents who had been educated on providing clinical-level care. Each child is evaluated before he or she is placed in a TFC home to determine a perfect match. A mental health professional will consider the child’s level of cognitive development, any traumatic experiences he or she has had and current health condition to find a home that suits his or her needs.
What Is the Difference Between Foster Care and Treatment Foster Care?
A lot of children had already been placed in traditional foster homes but did not receive the care they needed because their foster parents did not have the training to understand and adequately care for the child.
TFC, unlike traditional foster care, combines in-home living with mental health treatment and support. TFC parents are taught how to address mental health issues in a nurturing and compassionate family environment. Traditional foster parents receive less-intensive training and may not be prepared to handle the complex emotions and behaviors that foster children often express.
Also, traditional foster care focuses on changing the parents’ behavior, while TFC emphasizes treating the child. TFC parents are required to be knowledgeable about mental and behavioral health issues among youth, whereas traditional foster parents’ primary responsibility is providing a safe shelter for a foster child.
Why Is Treatment Foster Care Better Than Traditional Foster Care?
Children in foster care have a higher chance of experiencing mental health issues and developmental delays than the general population due to the lack of security in their lives. They often come from dangerous situations or homes where they were abused or neglected. For this reason, many foster care children need mental health treatment in conjunction with a safe place to thrive and heal.
Traditional foster care, on the other hand, is meant to protect a child from harm and provide shelter — not treat mental health issues. TFC offers everything a traditional foster home offers, in addition to the mental health care that most foster care children need on a professional level.
No matter how healthy a child may seem, being placed into foster care is a traumatic experience. Although every child experiences and reacts to a painful event in their own way, it is always good to evaluate a child’s mental health before placing him or her in foster care.
In summary, the benefits of TFC include:
- Each child receives a treatment plan to help them with mental health issues.
- TFC parents are trained to be sensitive and understanding of a child’s unique emotional and behavioral issues.
- Children in TFC programs receive care designed to help them grow into healthy, productive adults.
- TFC provides the best home environment for children with mental health issues in need of safety and understanding.
- TFC parents are available to provide mental health support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Children in treatment foster care know they have caring adults in their home who are always there for them to help them cope with painful emotions in a nonjudgmental way.
- TFC parents work with other mental health professionals in developing and implementing the most effective treatment plan for their foster child.
- In a TFC program, children often are not in homes with other foster children, giving them individual attention, supervision and care they need.
Top Foster Care in Atlanta, GA
Our Connections program at Hillside is one of the few foster care programs in Georgia that focuses on children with special emotional needs. The program was designed to provide stability for these children by pairing them with families who are trained and supported to welcome them.
Even ending up in a foster care agency in Georgia can cause children who do not already have behavior issues to develop them. Either way, though, children in the foster system who are dealing with mental health issues are less likely to find the stable family life they need to grow into independent, productive adults.
Connections Treatment Foster Care Program at Hillside
Hillside Connections was developed as a Treatment Foster Care program to meet the needs of children with emotional and behavioral challenges who are between the ages of 5 and 21. Many of these children have had chaotic childhood experiences with little or no exposure to stable family environments and thus need an opportunity to learn family living skills.
Through our Connections program, Hillside provides children in foster care with the added services they need to be successful. We work with families to understand the needs of foster kids and support their desire to provide the loving, nurturing home these children are missing.
Children who are referred to our Connections program will have an opportunity to tell their story and talk about their strengths and needs with Hillside’s Connections staff. These strengths and needs will be taken into consideration when identifying a family and creating a positive match that seems like a potential fit.
Once a child enters the Connections program, he or she will have an opportunity to visit with the selected family and begin developing a relationship during a pre-placement process to determine if the child and family are a good match for each other. A team is developed to monitor the success of the placement, and a specific staff member is designated to work with the child and family on developing the skills needed to regulate emotions, crisis intervention skills, and, when appropriate, independent living skills. Community-based mental health agencies will be identified to help address the child’s emotional and behavioral needs.
Our staff will also advocate for any educational needs and develop a plan for success towards completion of high school. Our full treatment team will meet regularly to develop goals to continue to work towards the child’s success.
Most of the children who enter the foster care system come from untenable family situations, need to be protected by the state and removed from an unhealthy or dangerous living situation. They lack any real support structure or stability in their lives. Children spend an average of 20.4 months with a foster care agency in Georgia, and it can be a transient lifestyle without nurturing connections or roots in the community.
What Mental Health Issues Does Treatment Foster Care Provide For?
Many children who were exposed to violence, abuse or neglect experience developmental issues that can affect their ability to cope with stress or process emotions. However, it is never too late for a child to learn coping skills, build meaningful family relationships and heal from past wounds.
The goal of TFC is to treat a wide range of emotional, behavioral and mental developmental issues for foster children and help the child grow and become the person they are meant to be.
Treatment foster care programs commonly deal with the following mental health issues:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Self-injurious behaviors
- Bipolar disorder
- Borderline personality disorder
- Trauma-related disorders
Treatment foster care programs are designed to help children with many different mental health disorders, especially those that often result from abuse and neglect. TFC parents understand that happiness as a foster child is complicated, but not impossible.
How Many Kids in Foster Care Have Mental Health Issues?
More than 70 percent of foster care children have experienced maltreatment, and more than 80 percent have been exposed to violence. Many have lived with a multitude of caregivers and have not had the chance to form stable relationships, either.
Specific factors contribute to mental health issues in children, including:
- History of trauma
- Frequently changing homes
- Broken family relationships
- Insufficient mental health care
Compared to children who are not in foster care, up to 80 percent of those in foster care are:
- Twice as likely to have a learning disability
- Five times more likely to experience anxiety
- Six times more likely to have behavioral problems
- Seven times more like to have depression
Considering that many children in foster care need mental health attention, the majority of children would benefit significantly from a TFC program instead of traditional foster care.
What Are the Best Ages for Treatment Foster Care?
Very young children have trouble expressing their feelings, and it may be difficult to diagnose them with a mental health issue. However, half of all lifetime cases of mental illness start by age 14, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH).
Nonetheless, children of all ages can experience the effects of a traumatic event and may show signs of a mental health disorder at a very young age. The sooner a child receives treatment for a mental health issue, the better the outcome typically is. For this reason, it is essential for a child to get treatment for a mental health disorder as soon as possible at any age.
Although there is no exact age a child should enter a TFC program, most kids in need of treatment foster care are in middle school or high school. Often, children who need TFC display challenging behaviors as a result of abuse and neglect, which traditional foster parents are not educated on treating.
A foster care child may display:
- Self-injurious behavior
- Impulsive behavior
- Learning disabilities
- Symptoms of a mental health disorder, such as depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Changes in sleep or appetite
- Aggressive behavior
Our TFC program, Hillside® Connections, was developed to serve children ages 5 to 21.
Anyone interested in becoming a foster parent should keep in mind that although a child may be struggling with mental health or behavioral issues, they still have a unique personality and talents. Just like any child, they need love, stability and the opportunity to flourish the way they deserve. TFC recognizes the potential in every foster child.
What Happens When Treatment Ends for the Foster Child?
In the majority of cases, the goal of TFC is to reunite the child with their biological parents. In fact, 55 percent have the intent to reunite with their parents or original caregivers, according to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS).
If the foster child’s family is still not able to provide adequate care or a safe home environment by the end of the child’s treatment plan, the child may be adopted by their foster parents or a relative. In some cases, the child may continue to receive treatment.
The point of treatment in a TFC program is to help the child heal emotionally and developmentally so they can overcome life challenges, develop self-confidence, create life goals and sustain healthy relationships. Mental health treatment, resources and assistance do not end for foster children after foster care.
At least until age 21, children are assessed for their ability to maintain healthy relationships and live independently. They might need help obtaining a driver’s license or identifying career goals. At Hillside, we work to make sure each child in our TFC program get their educational needs met, then develop a plan for successful completion of high school.
We make sure every foster child receives the treatment they need and has developed vital life-skills before transitioning back into their home — or a new place of their own if they are old enough to live independently.
Is There a Required Timeframe for Treatment Care?
There is no required time frame for treatment foster care. However, the goal is to reunite the child with their biological family as soon as possible. A child could stay in a treatment foster care program for days or years — however much time they need to heal and reach their goals. Also, as mentioned above, if a child’s home situation remains unsafe or unhealthy, they may not be placed back with their biological family.
The priority of a treatment foster care program is to make sure each child reaches the goals of his or her treatment plan and receives adequate care for mental health issues before leaving treatment.
Become a Treatment Foster Parent today!
Have you ever considered doing something to help your community? Have you ever thought: “I am really good with children?” Have you ever considered that the key to our country’s success is our youth? If you answered yes to any of these questions – we need you!
We are looking for professional parents who want to join our team in partnership by opening their homes to become a therapeutic foster parent. We will work with you to complete the 10 week training program designed to give you the tools you will need to successfully parent children and youth previously traumatized by abuse and neglect. You won’t be in this alone as we believe the success of the program has everything to do with the team we build to work with each individual youth.
We also are looking for parents who would like to open their homes on weekends and for short time periods to parent a youth in the program who is in need of respite care. Respite services give much-needed breaks to families who are full time caretakers for youth with emotional and behavioral problems.
Do You Need Special Qualifications to Be a Foster Care Parent?
Specialized training is required to become a treatment foster care parent. TFC parents need to be able to provide support and care for children with specific mental health issues resulting from traumatic experiences such as abuse or neglect.
An individual may become a TFC parent to a child who had been sexually abused or has a behavioral disorder. So, a TFC parent needs to know how to handle tough situations and complex emotions in a way that supports the child and promotes growth.
Treatment foster care parents are not just caregivers — they are considered professionals in the clinical treatment of the foster child. TFC parents must undergo intensive training and complete courses that prepare them for the challenges of providing care to children with mental health issues. Foster parent training courses usually include:
- Lessons on how to teach social skills to the foster child
- Education about a variety of mental health and trauma-related disorders
- Training on cultural sensitivity
- Ongoing education opportunities
You do not need a college degree to get started, but you do need a high school diploma (or equivalent) and financial stability. Other requirements include:
- A driver’s license and reliable form of transportation & proof of automobile insurance
- A flexible schedule to provide supervision of the youth when not in school
- A criminal history check for all household members, which shows no history of confirmed child abuse, neglect or abandonment
- A drug screen for all household members over age 18
- Financial stability with source of income sufficient to meet the current needs of your household
- All household members must pass a medical exam
Is Training Provided for Treatment Foster Care Parents?
Treatment foster care parenting is a challenging job, but it is not done alone. Hillside works with every parent to ensure each foster family gets the best care and support they need, in addition to initial training.
At Hillside, we offer a 10-week training program for individuals or couples interested in becoming a treatment foster care parent.
Who Provides Treatment Foster Care in Georgia?
Hillside is one of Atlanta’s oldest nonprofit organizations. As a treatment foster care agency, we understand what children and families need to overcome a complicated past or mental health diagnosis. With every case, there is hope. It is our mission to help families and children, both biological and foster, realize this.
We not only provide treatment foster care, but we also serve the community through residential, outpatient and community intervention services.
If you are interested in becoming a treatment foster care parent, or in finding treatment foster care for a child who is dear to you, you’ve come to the right place. With more than 130 years of experience, Hillside is dedicated to helping families and children thrive. To learn more about our treatment foster care program, reach out to us today.
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