Children in Need of Loving Hands
When I was about four, my brothers and I were removed from our parents care because they were incapable of taking care of us due to drug and alcohol abuse. In the time that we were in their care, we experienced trauma that we may learn to accept and learn to live with but will never fully heal from. My paternal grandmother and her partner decided to file for guardianship, and we’ve been with them ever since. We were lucky. The majority of the children removed from their homes are placed in group homes, and the results are saddening. To combat the difficulties that come with trauma, children in the foster care system require the assistance of individuals trained to help them readjust to a healthy way of living. It is very common for youth within the system to be traumatized in their current placement, only to be removed and placed in another harmful environment, with very little chance of receiving the help they require to heal and grow as individuals. It is unfair and extremely unjust to overlook how desperate these children are for help. Many of the children within the foster care system aren’t even aware that it’s possible to live healthier, happier lives, because all they’ve known is abuse and isolation. One of the most promising methods of treatment is called Therapeutic Foster Care (TFC). I will be going over some of the ways in which TFC is beneficial for the youth within the foster care system who have been traumatized, and why it should be used over other methods of treatment.
Now that a possible solution to this ever-growing problem has been addressed, what is Therapeutic Foster Care? Therapeutic Foster Care is a form of foster care that caters to the physical, emotional and social needs of traumatized youth in the foster care system. While TFC is reserved for children with severe emotional disturbances, it is not limited to just traumatized individuals in foster care. Children with any kind of special needs who require out-of-home placements can take advantage of the resources that TFC has to offer. TFC offers a multitude of services for the children in need of a nurturing environment. Among those services are additional intensive therapy, tutoring and other educational aids, as well as a more unique kind of therapy for children called Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT).
Animal Assisted Therapy is an excellent way for children who have a harder time forming trusting relationships with others to bond with an animal, eventually building on their social skills, as well as their empathy, self-esteem, and attachment building skills (Kesner, A., Steven R. Pritzker, 77). In “Therapeutic Horseback Riding With Children Placed In The Foster Care System” by Amy Kesner and Steven R. Pritzker, the mental health benefits that come with regularly engaging with animals is explored. It’s stated that “mental health professionals realize that animals can be very powerful in helping children at risk because they can encourage learning, cooperation, and expression” (Kesner, et al. 79). In other words, children are more likely to improve socially and otherwise upon bonding with these animals. While not every TFC program will offer horseback riding lessons, the benefits that come with AAT cannot be overlooked. Yet as good as it is for traumatized children to bond with animals and build trusting relationships with them, it’s even more important that the children in TFC build trusting relationships with their caregivers.
How comfortable and trusting the youth are with their caregivers can make all the difference when it comes down to their healing. If the caregivers are not properly trained, or they don’t bond with the children, very little progress will be made. Southerland says, “our findings suggest that the relationship between the treatment parent and youth in a TFC setting is significantly associated with better emotional and behavioral functioning for the youth” (D. G. Southerland, et al., 59). In other words, a strong, high-quality relationship is more likely to result in the troubled youth making progress towards a healthy lifestyle. A child being placed in a new location would no doubt feel happier and safer if they felt close to those tasked to take care of them.
Therapeutic Foster Care seems like a sure solution to help traumatized youth in the foster care system, but others may beg to differ, saying that Residential Group Care (RGC) is just as effective when it comes to rehabilitating these children. A study in the Midwest was done on 200 children in a group home placement. The study revealed that around 70% of the children involved in the study, as adults had graduated from high-school, and around 27% had gone on to continue their education. While this is encouraging, Curtis says, “42% had been arrested since discharge from the resident facility” (Curtis, Patrick, et al., 386). Another study was done comparing youth from specialized foster care and group care. After being discharged, only about half of the youth in specialized foster care were reincarcerated, versus 15 out of 16 youths in group care (Curtis, Patrick, et al., 386). Both RGC and TFC have the potential to be very effective in providing this troubled youth with the help and guidance they need, but you cannot expect a child to build healthy, trusting relationships with the people who have the power to help them if they feel like they’re only important until another child with more needs arrives to their group home. Therapeutic Foster Care can focus more on individual children and their needs because of the small size and large number of caregivers on site. RGC can only do so much for these children when the number of children outnumbers the amount of caregivers’ present. In my brothers and I experiencing the trauma we did as small children, living with my grandmothers after they adopted us was significantly better than being put into a home that wouldn’t be capable of providing us with the amount of care that we needed. We had the luxury of not only being placed with people we already knew, but people who genuinely loved us and were willing to do whatever it took to help us heal. While it wasn’t an official TFC center, the results of us being brought up by my grandmothers were phenomenal as compared to children placed in any kind of group home. Even thinking about where we would be today without the love and patience they showed us is upsetting.
All these facts help to illustrate the point it is that I am trying to make but let us not forget that these children are not numbers, and they absolutely cannot be treated as such. Both RGC and TFC aim to nurture these children, but RGC is simply not capable of offering around the clock care in the way that TFC is. I am also a firm believer that a gentle touch is more effective on children who have been traumatized than the intense discipline and inattention often seen in group homes. This is so important because we cannot hope to have a brighter future if our younger generations don’t even believe a bright future to be possible. We owe it to our youth to offer them the best lives that they can have.
Breland-Noble, Alfiee M., et al. “Mental Health and Other Service Use by Youth in Therapeutic Foster Care and Group Homes.” Journal of Child & Family Studies, vol. 14, no. 2, June 2005, pp. 167-180. EBSCOhost, http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=pbh&AN=17414228&site=ehost-live
This article studies children with psychiatric disorders and aggressive behavior who have been placed in TFC and group homes. It studies the differences in service types, as well as service patterns and how much attention were provided to either group. This will help in my essay to shine a light on the assistance needed by troubled youth in the Foster Care System, and how much attention is required for their needs to be met. This source is reliable because it was published by the Journal of Child & Family Studies.
Curtis, Patrick A., et al. “A Literature Review Comparing the Outcomes of Residential Group Care and Therapeutic Foster Care.” Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal, vol. 18, no. 5, Oct. 2001, pp. 377-392. EBSCOhost, http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=sih&AN=5667470&site=ehost-live
This article explores the effectiveness of both TFC (Therapeutic Foster Care) and Residential Group Care, and which is more effective. While many people are strong advocates for both, this article goes to settle the matter, presenting their findings in the article. This article will be used to acknowledge and explore the importance of programs that focus on the emotional well being of troubled youth within the system.
Frederico, Margarita, et al. “Improving Outcomes for Children in Out-Of-Home Care: The Role of Therapeutic Foster Care.” Child & Family Social Work, vol. 22, no. 2, May 2017, pp. 1064-1074. EBSCOhost, http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=sih&AN=122576873&site=ehost-live
The article interviews multiple caregivers who are apart of TFC (Therapeutic Foster Care). The Circle Program, which is what the caregivers are a part of, lessened the number of sudden or unplanned exits from the foster care system. This will be used in my report to acknowledge the importance of the caregivers themselves being properly trained and capable of meeting the needs of the children. This source is reliable because of all of the extensive research done on the subject, as well as the results/findings being backed up by research.
Kesner, Amy and Steven R. Pritzker. “Therapeutic Horseback Riding with Children Placed in the Foster Care System.” Revision, vol. 30, no. 1/2, Summer/Fall2008, p. 77. EBSCOhost, http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f5h&AN=41553864&site=ehost-live
This article focuses on the importance of making animals apart of the healing process for traumatized individuals in foster care. It points out the effectivity of animal assisted therapy (AAT). In this case the focus is on horses, but it’s important all the same, because of the positive effects that it has on the children. I will use this to further address the importance of nurturing traumatized children emotionally. This source is reliable because I’m presented with facts and lots of information from the study that was done to answer whether or not AAT is beneficial to children.
Southerland, Dannia, et al. “What’s the Relationship Got to Do with It? Understanding the Therapeutic Relationship in Therapeutic Foster Care.” Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal, vol. 26, no. 1, Feb. 2009, pp. 49-63. EBSCOhost, http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=sih&AN=35908408&site=ehost-live
This article explores the importance of the relationships between the traumatized youth in foster care and their providers. It also shows that the quality of the relationship between the caregiver and the troubled youth greatly affects the rate at which children heal. I’m going to use this in my report to highlight how important it is for troubled youth to receive the help that they need in order to heal. Its credible in the way that it was made into a scholarly article, along with affiliations to the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.