Imperfect parents

We are looking for imperfect parents. Individuals who know they don’t have it altogether and still want to give what they have.

Because being a foster parent isn’t about having a perfect home. It’s about having a welcoming home. A place where kids feel safe enough to let their guard down and start to heal.

Being a foster parent isn’t about having a perfect heart either. It’s about having a willing-to-learn heart. Willing to explore and try trauma-effective strategies to best connect with youth from hard places.

Because youth in foster care aren’t looking for perfect parents. They are in need of safe and authentic adults who will show up for them, cheer for them, celebrate them and stay with them when life is hard.

You don’t even have to parent perfectly to succeed as a foster parent. Being willing to admit mistakes and apologize is a remarkable quality.

The need is great for parents who believe in imperfect progress and have empathy for brokenness. For adults who can extend kindness and grace to youth who are hurting. Especially to teens, sibling groups and children with medical needs.

If imperfect is where you are, let’s talk about the possibilities. Connect with Heather today at 330.462.1118 or huebnerh@ccho.org. Or click the inquire button at the top of your screen.

Prep course update

Encourage is excited to announce that our prep courses to become a licensed foster family is now 24 hours.

Due to House Bill 8, the Ohio legislature has reduced the training requirements for foster caregivers from 36 hours to 24 hours effective January 22, 2021. Here is a summary quote from The Ohio Children’s Alliance, “Passage of HB 8 will equip Ohio’s child welfare system to onboard foster parents quicker and utilize virtual training opportunities. This is especially important given Ohio’s recent rise in foster care placements and the need to leverage virtual technology amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Read the full article.

Encourage foster parent prep courses provide the tools for families to be successful as they say YES to a placement. We have a talented and compassionate team that will ensure you have support, guidance and resources as you take the journey as a foster family. Our focus is providing standard training that is mandated by the state as well as specialized training with a trauma-informed approach.

We teach our families TBRI, an attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention that is designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children. TBRI uses Connecting Principles for attachment needs, Empowering Principles to address physical needs, and Correcting Principles to disarm fear-based behaviors. While the intervention is based on years of attachment, sensory processing and neuroscience research, the heartbeat of TBRI is connection.

Read a Beginner’s Guide to TBRI.

If you have a heart to foster, yet you have questions, please make that phone call. Heather Huebner, our foster parent recruiter, would love the opportunity to answer your questions and share all about Encourage Foster Care. She can be reached at 330.462.1118.

Imperfect parents needed and YES, you can foster too. ❤️

Collaborative care

With strong leadership in trauma-informed care and a diverse clinical team, Encourage is well positioned to care for the complex needs of youth in foster care. We are part of a trio of ministries with Encompass Christian Counseling and Christian Children’s Home of Ohio. Our nonprofit organization has been addressing the social and emotional needs of children and families for more than 50 years.

Encompass Christian Counseling offers outpatient mental health counseling through various office locations throughout northeast Ohio. Trained and compassionate clinicians care for clients of all ages and levels of need. Many specialize in the unique needs of foster families. Counselors collaborate with Encourage foster care coordinators to reinforce therapy and connect youth with additional resources.

Christian Children’s Home of Ohio provides a residential trauma treatment program to youth ages 6 to 18 with high level emotional and behavioral needs. Through a variety of individual and group therapies, youth are able to feel safe, process their trauma and learn coping strategies. Upon completion of their programs, most youth step down to foster homes.

The clinical team across our family of ministries works hard to collaborate and communicate client needs. Having services under one umbrella increases access to treatment and continuity of care. This provides the best overall care to youth and the foster families caring for them.

If you are interested in learning more about fostering a child or teen stepping down from residential treatment*, we would love to connect with you.

*Note: the majority of youth served at Encourage are not from a residential treatment program, but there are times when a treatment foster home is needed to care for a youth who is in the permanent custody of their county.

Therapeutic supports

Encourage cares deeply about youth with high-level needs and we are equally committed to supporting treatment foster families who open their hearts and homes to these youth. Our goal is to equip foster parents with the physical, emotional and logistical help needed to come alongside hurting kids with safety, love and connection. We want to see each foster family and each foster child be successful in the purpose to which God is calling them.

To support families on their foster care journey, Encourage provides therapeutic services including case management, mental health counseling and psychiatric care as needed. These services are provided seamlessly as Encourage is part of a trio of trauma-informed ministries with Encompass Christian Counseling and Christian Children’s Home of Ohio.

Foster youth may receive outpatient mental health counseling and psychiatric care as needed from compassionate licensed clinicians. They will help identify and address issues like anger management, trauma, grief and loss, depression, self-harm, anxiety and relationship struggles.

Encourage foster care coordinators provide intensive case management on a weekly basis. They reinforce the youth’s therapy work as well as TBRI principles with foster parents to ensure they implement this method daily with their youth. They also help foster youth and families with skill building, academic guidance and links to additional community resources. By listening and learning, they build trust and identify solutions together.

At Encourage, we work as a team and with community partners to provide wrap-around care for children and families. This added layer of support helps make lasting change for the whole family.

Learn more about how Encourage is uniquely positioned to care for the complex needs of youth in foster care in our next blog post.

Saying yes to teenagers

Teens from hard places crave safety, acceptance, respect and unconditional love. They desire, and deserve, to be wanted and cherished just like infants and toddlers are in foster homes. There is a gap in many foster care programs for this age group due to the limited number of foster families willing to take placement of teenagers. Encourage is blessed to have some incredible foster families who have stepped up and said “yes” to teenagers.

One of these families is the Walker family (name changed to protect privacy). The Walkers are licensed as a treatment foster home. Over the past year, they have had two teenagers placed with them. They have also fostered numerous children and teenagers in the past.

The Walkers utilize Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) techniques to connect with their foster children. Establishing a connection and sense of felt safety often leads to a decrease in negative behaviors and increase in prosocial, desired behaviors. TBRI recommends that foster parents prioritize quality time with their teenaged foster children. Foster parents are encouraged to develop an interest in one of their foster child’s interests. The Walkers make sure to do this for each teen in their home, spending time each day, even if it is for just 10 minutes, engaging in their now shared interest. Some of these activities they have engaged in with their foster children are baking, playing card games, shopping and swimming. The Walkers also help their foster teens utilize healthy coping skills and self-regulation techniques as they work through their past trauma.

In addition to helping the teenagers placed in their home feel safe and begin the healing process, they also do a wonderful job teaching their foster children independent living skills. They enjoy teaching them these valuable skills that will help them succeed throughout their life. The Walkers have taught them how to grow and prepare their own fruits and vegetables. They have taught them how to cook, wash their own laundry, and do basic household chores. They have also taught their current foster children how to swim, a skill both of them are so thankful to have been taught. The Walkers have also allowed their teenagers to engage in volunteer work, developing a sense of purpose in their lives.

The Walkers truly act as the hands and feet of Christ. They are willing to say yes to teenagers, giving these worthy teenagers a chance to feel wanted, loved, and accepted. They are relentlessly committed to being a safe place for their foster children, providing a healing and therapeutic environment in which they can grow and be shown their worth in Christ. The Walkers leave a lifelong impact on these teenagers, showing up for them when many others won’t.

Blog post contributed by Jessie Berry, clinical supervisor at Encourage.

Higher levels of need

As mentioned in our previous blog post, Encourage is passionate about serving youth with higher levels of need including medical, emotional and/or behavioral challenges. This could range from asthma, diabetes or ADHD to more challenging medical and behavioral needs such as cerebral palsy, pre-natal exposure to drugs or alcohol, or behaviors related to a youth’s prior trauma.

A youth with high-level needs will previously have experienced some type of childhood trauma and/or have an identified medical-related issue. The childhood trauma typically comes in the form of emotional maltreatment, physical and/or sexual abuse. Because of their trauma, these youth may have emotional issues and don’t know how to express their needs appropriately.

They often struggle academically and socially. They may likely display a full range of emotions, or none at all, and as result, require some further intervention by mental health professionals in addressing their needs. Many of these youth require counseling and/or medication to help them cope and function more positively in school and home. Some other high-level youth may have identified medical issues, and thus need more support by their caregivers and additional medical appointments to help them with their development.

Treatment foster families who care for youth with higher levels of need will benefit from additional supports and services. Encourage uses the Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) Model to train and assist our foster families. TBRI is an attachment-based tool that caregivers use to connect with children from hard places. This trauma-informed approach helps foster families create felt-safety for youth being placed in their homes. It also helps foster families better understand their own attachment styles so they can then extend compassion for their youth and the biological family.

Encourage supports foster families throughout the youth’s stay in their home. Professional, compassionate staff provide intensive case management to assist those families with weekly contact, immediate mental health counseling and psychiatric services as needed.

Our next blog post will share more about case management and other therapeutic services.

Treatment foster care

Encourage Foster Care provides trauma-informed training and supportive services to foster and foster-to-adopt families. We specialize in treatment foster care and prioritize sibling groups, older children, teens, and children with medical needs. Our heart is for these youth to experience safety and connection.

When a child or teen needs emergency care due to a crisis in their home, placement with the child’s family member or a person whom the child knows (also known as kinship placement) is always the preferred option. When kinship placement isn’t possible, the second choice is placement in a family foster home within their county. If the youth or siblings cannot be placed with a family member or with a family foster home in their local area, a treatment foster home becomes the next choice. These are the children we serve at Encourage.

Families with a treatment foster care license are equipped to meet unique needs like caring for sibling groups in order to keep siblings together or providing for the higher-level needs of children or teens who have medical, emotional and/or behavioral issues. This could range from asthma, diabetes or ADHD to more challenging medical and behavioral needs such as cerebral palsy, pre-natal exposure to drugs or alcohol, or behaviors related to a youth’s prior trauma.

A treatment foster care license is more focused than a traditional foster care license. Foster and foster-to-adopt families must meet certain criteria to qualify, including one of the following: have five years of parenting experience, receive 24-hours of additional foster parent training, or have experience caring for a child in foster care for 365 consecutive days. Encourage provides the additional 24-hours of training to all of our treatment foster families with a focus on trauma-informed approaches.

Our next blog post will share more about what a youth with high-level needs looks like and how Encourage trains treatment foster families from a trauma-informed approach.

Facebook Live Q&A

UPDATE: We are postponing our Foster Care Q&A session until February, but we are always open and available to take your questions. Send Heather a message at huebnerh@ccho.org or give her a call at 330.462.1118. 

Yes, I’ve thought about fostering, BUT I have so many questions and I just don’t know where to begin.

Our Encourage team would love the opportunity to answer your questions. There’s no question too big or too small. How has the pandemic affected foster care? What training do I need? Do I have to be married? What if I don’t own my own home? What are the ages of the children? What are visits with bio-families like? Where do the referrals come from? What sets Encourage Foster Care apart from other agencies?

We have answers to these questions and more! And we want you to share your challenges and concerns so we can better serve you.

Send us your questions today and make plans to tune in for our Facebook Live Q&A event on Monday, December 7 at 7pm. This will be a great opportunity to not only have your questions answered but to meet some of our staff that will be walking alongside you as you consider this journey in foster care.

Submit your questions via email to Heather at huebnerh@ccho.org or through Facebook Messenger. We look forward to answering those questions that may be laying on your heart and sharing the need for foster families throughout Northeast Ohio.

Mark your calendars for this fun and informative Facebook Live Q&A event with the Encourage Foster Care team: Monday, December 7 at 7pm.

We hope you’ll feel encouraged because, yes, you can foster too!

PS – if you are curious or looking for question prompts, check out the Encourage FAQ page.

Making art, making progress

The goal for most youth in foster care is reunification with their biological families. While apart from each other, bio parents focus on their own healing work while our staff and foster parents provide safety and therapeutic care to the kids. It’s complicated work helping kids process confusing emotions and trauma as well as helping them navigate relationships and family visitation.

One of the preteen girls in our program recently demonstrated huge progress and a kind heart. “When someone receiving treatment can see outside of themselves to want to help others—that is a significant marker in their treatment,” said Shawn Pedani, director of Encourage.

Here is Veronica’s* story.

Veronica is very smart, caring and sweet. She was welcomed into care by an Encourage foster family last summer. The goal for her and her siblings is reunification, but their bio parents are struggling a lot, especially with visits. Sometimes they don’t show up, sometimes they do, but then don’t behave like they’re supposed to. When this happens, Veronica gets understandably upset.

However, she recently came up with an idea. Being very artistic and crafty, Veronica has been working on a project to identify and recognize her emotions and better cope with her anger. She has been representing her daily emotions with emojis through construction paper art. This creative expression helps her keep busy and forget about her anger, which also helps her manage anxiety.

Veronica asked her foster care coordinator to show her art project to other kids so they could try it too and be comforted. “I am so proud of her,” said Maria Reina, foster care coordinator at Encourage. “It’s amazing that a child can come up with an idea like this by herself and she is so kind to share with others in order to help them.”

Learning how to manage emotions and behaviors is challenging for youth from hard places. Our team and foster parents come alongside our kids to teach and model this important work. When we see children implement strategies and experience success, we are overjoyed! These life skills are so beneficial to their healing and overall well-being.

If your family tries Veronica’s emoji art project, would you kindly let us know? We’d love to share your story with her so she can be even more encouraged. Send us a note at inquire@encourage.family.

*Name changed for privacy.