Therapeutic Foster Care

Information provided by Stacey Helton

Holidays can be tough times for any family. The economy has not been kind. There are meals to plan, presents to buy, relatives to visit.

But what if you are a child that has been separated from their family, removed from the only home you’ve known due to abuse, neglect or situations unsuitable for living?

For those children, more fragile than regular foster care placement can adequately handle, there is hope. There are loving families willing to give of their time and love to open up their hearts and homes to these deserving children.

Being a therapeutic foster parent is both tough and rewarding. Progress is measured in small steps, not breakthroughs. Rewards are a smile, a hug, maybe an “I love you.”

Children and youth in the Therapeutic Foster Care (TFC) Program, provided by Counseling Associates, Inc. of Conway and Russellville, have emotional and behavioral concerns and have been removed from the custody of their parents because of problems they or their families may be experiencing. Due to the need for professional treatment and counseling, a traditional foster home is inadequate to meet these needs.

Fewer than two dozen TFC families serve the six-county area covered by the Counseling Associates program. The need for more TFC families is great.

The need for a family is important to help these children work through fear, anger and frustration they may be feeling. All have difficulty developing positive relationships with peers and adults and are unable to deal with their problem. They have special medical problems or are reacting to the abuse and neglect they’ve experienced in their lives.

Unlike regular foster care families, TFC families are given background access to the children’s lives, to see if the child ‘fits’ into the prospective family’s abilities. And, unlike regular foster care, the TFC may be long-term.

These children have often been passed repeatedly through the foster care system due to circumstances not their fault. They are often abused, neglected, emotionally scarred and in need of stable, loving environments in which to begin the healing process. The children entering the TFC program may be of all ages, up to 18 years of age.

An extensive referral handbook, training and staff support is readily available to TFC parents.

TFC Homes

In the Therapeutic Foster Care home, troubled children receive stability, security and positive discipline in addition to the basics of food, clothing and shlter. They learn and experience how to be successful in school and how to be a responsible member of the community.

Working together, staff members and parents can give children and teens hope for a brighter future. To return home successfully or to become independent, well-adjusted young adults is the goal of all TFC youths. Make a difference – provide a home and an opportunity for a troubled child.

TFC Parents

Treatment parents come from all walks of life with the common bond of caring for children. While some may have college degrees, a degree is not required for this profession. Parents, grandparents and others who believe they have good parenting skills, and who have a commitment to improving the lives of children and teens, are wanted.

With the initial 30 hours of intensive parenting training that TFC provides, you can become a TFC parent for a troubled child. No special degrees in counseling or teaching are needed – just your concern and commitment.

TFC provides the training and on-going support one needs to do the job. Someone wit the ambition to learn, the willingness to open their home and their heart to troubled child, and the desire to make a difference in the life of a child, is desperately needed by the program.

Requirements for TFC Parents include being over 21 years of age and in good health, a desire to take advantage of free professional training, want a job you can do at home, wish to earn tax-free income, care about troubled children and have room in your heart and home.

Additional information is available by contacting Counseling Associates, Inc., Russellville, (479) 968-1298, or Conway, (501) 336-8300.

The Knights

Tommy and Betty Knight always felt lead to the Therapeutic Foster Care field.

“I guess we have always known we wanted to be foster parents,” said Betty. “I think it was just something Tommy and I knew we were going to do without question. The Knights’ two older children, Dee Dee and Danny, were adopted.

“And we had Josh, Lori, Mikaela, and Nick. We definitely wanted to wait till all of our children were grown before starting foster care.”

Never wanting an “Empty Nest,” Tommy said the couple adopted Adam in February of 2009, after having him in their home for four years.

“I am sure we will not be having empty nest anytime soon,” he added.

The couple added that they had never been without children in their home, as a couple alone, for more than a whole week perhaps.

“I believe having kids in our home keeps us young!” chuckled Betty.

Tommy quickly added, “I feel young and I hope we will be able to have foster children until our bodies and health just won’t allow it anymore!”

The couple has been married 19 years; during that time they have had 10 foster children since joining the Therapeutic Foster Care program in December 2001. They had custody of one of the little girls during that time, also adopted one. The currently have one placement child and their adopted son Adam living in their home.

Several years after their marriage, Tommy and Betty decided to build a home in Ola.

“Through the years, we have also had our own son’s friend live in our home with us when he was going through some tough family times and his mother was not around much. I guess you could say our home has always been open to children that need a safe place.”

“These kids are just a part or our family,” offers Tommy. “That’s how we feel and how they are treated here.”

Before the pair began offering their assistance as a Therapeutic Foster Care (TFC) family Betty was a nurse.

“I’ve also worked in a fabric shop, and had my own ceramic shop at my home. I did insurance exams for 10 years,” she added.

Tommy was always involved in Forestry. He worked for Arkansas Game and Fish and performed land management work.

Betty said she quit her job after the couple received their second TFC placement in our home. The child had several health concerns and had been sexually abused. I just felt she needed more attention and extra help so I quit to spend time with her; that allowed me to take her to doctor’s visits and be more involved — no different than what a parent would do for their own child.”

Tommy added that these days Betty substitutes at the schools so she can be around for the kids. They attend church and take the children to any other activities in the community so they can ‘find their way but be a part of a family and learn.”

The couple also has several animals to take care of, as well, as since they breed and sell dogs.

“We love having the animals around and so do the children. I believe they are therapeutic for kids. They love to pet them and help out with them. They also learn to take care of things and learn responsibility.”

The family also has a talking bird though, “he is just for fun and to make us all laugh.”

“We are like ‘The Cosby Show’ around here,” Betty said. “If you sit back and watch us, you will always see some humor and something funny. There is never a dull moment around here! We find fulfillment in helping kids. It’s just a big happy humorous family with a lot of laughter!”

“It’s not always perfect,” Tommy said. “The kids come into our home with several issues and they have been through a lot. We would never give up on a child in our home. You can’t make a perfect child, but you can always help them and offer some good.”

“It’s always interesting to watch a child grow and reach potential. We just look for the good and what they enjoy and we help them find their ‘niche.’”

Betty believes every kid has something to offer and, “it’s a great feeling to help them gain some confidence in themselves despite where they come from or their past.”

Since the kids are part of the family, It can be hard when they leave through adoption, reunification, or change in placement.

“You just have to believe you made a difference,” says Betty. “One of our placements is 20 years old now. He visits us often. He now is married with a little baby. It’s rewarding to see he has a good job and has really made something of his life. He still considers us his “parents.”

The goal for the children is simple. The Knights just want to help each lead a normal, productive life.

“We just want them to be proud of themselves as they grow and hopefully we can help them reach their potential. It’s about giving them a safe place, family environment, and improving their self esteem so they can feel important and set examples for others.”

The Adamses

Richard and Sharon Adams have been married for 43 years. The couple has three daughters, all grown now. They also have six grandkids, quickly adds Richard.

They knew they wanted to be Therapeutic Foster Parents after they were approached and asked to participate in the program due to their past experience with kids in need.

“We worked in group homes for many years in California and I feel like that experience gave us the opportunity here in Arkansas,” recalled Richard.

They believed their past gave the couple different experiences and settings need to help children.

“Helping kids is just what we have always done and always felt strongly about doing,” he added.

The couple met in California where Richard was a Union truck driver. Sharon was able to be a stay-at-home mom with their daughters. She later went to work as an office manager before the couple moved to the Russellville area 28 years ago.

The Adams family has had two actual therapeutic foster placements but many other foster children have enjoyed respite time in their home.

Becoming Therapeutic Foster Parents was the answer to a “calling,” said Richard. “I believe it’s a calling. We felt the calling and the Bible says to help the widows and orphans, so we feel it’s our calling to help these kids. He added, “We want to provide a home for them and support. I feel fulfilled when I am able to help children. It’s definitely a need so we fill the call. It’s not always the easiest thing to do as these kids come from very difficult situations at times, but it’s a reward to know you have helped and hopefully instilled something into them that’s positive and lasting.”

The Adamses have served a therapeutic foster parents for about three years, they recalled.

“We have had the opportunity to spend a great deal of our time and lives with our placements in the home within the three years. It all started as us just being like ‘weekend grandparents’ and providing respite services for other foster parents and a get-away for the children, but then we felt called to become full-time parents again.”

The couple admits they are unsure about the length of time that they will continue to serve as foster parents. “We are spontaneous people and just live day by day so who knows? But for now, we feel like it’s something important for us to do,” said Betty.

“We haven’t really discussed how long we will continue the therapeutic foster children program but there is a growing need in this area to help these kids,” believes Richard.”With the growing need we will continue to try to meet the needs of these kids in hard times in their lives.”

“We just want to give them support, offer a home with structure, and make them feel apart in home and a family when they are away from their own.”

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