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.
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.
We recently shared a news article on the Encourage Facebook page about youth in foster care being housed at the Cuyahoga County Department of Job and Family Services. We asked Encourage Intake Coordinator Angel Sigler to share more about the critical need and how we can respond.
I hear voices crying out about the need for more foster parents in our communities. Voices saying that there are not enough homes for children in need of safety. On one level this is true, but there’s a greater need in this situation. The bigger challenge is that there are not enough foster homes with the ability to provide care for children with high-level needs—especially if that child with behavioral needs is a teenager. Not many families are willing or trained to welcome them and address their unique needs. Those are the children living in the DJFS buildings.
Here’s the greatest need: foster parents who are willing and trained to take in children with high-level behavioral issues caused by trauma and help them find their way through all the pain to find healing and a new way to manage all they have experienced.
The emotional and behavior challenges of a traumatized child do not instantly go away once you love them and give them a safe environment. It is a long process, but the end is so worth it.
There are boys and girls completing their individualized therapy programs at residential treatment centers, including CCHO, waiting for a place to go. These hurting youth came into residential care because their compounding losses made them unable to adapt and function well in a foster family home. They’ve spent an average of six to nine months working their programs, participating in therapy, and now they are ready to try their new skills in a family setting. With few foster families willing or able to help them acclimate back into a family unit and the greater community, these children wait in limbo and begin to lose hope that a family will ever want them.
My heart hurts for these precious kids.
We need families to say yes to opening their hearts and homes to teenagers even if those teens are angry, struggling with drug issues, or facing mental-health concerns. If we don’t help these youth find their way out of the pain—which often looks like anger and self-medication—they will become adults with no support system, no healing, and ultimately no hope. That is heartbreaking. And the cycle often repeats with their children.
The system is only as broken as you and I allow it to be. Is reform needed? Sure. Do we want children living in the DJFS building? Certainly not. But what choice does the county have until more families respond?
Here’s my invitation. Lean in to fully hear my heart.
Will you step up and fight alongside and for these kids? Not like cheerleaders on the sidelines, but in the field getting dirty with them? They really need you—stable, caring adults—to help them find themselves in the midst of the chaos.
Patience, flexibility and a willingness to learn TBRI skills. When foster parents implement this posture and these tools and welcome kids with high-level behavioral needs into their homes, that’s when we’ll see the miracles begin to happen. Our promise at Encourage: we commit to coming with you every step of the journey—training, coaching, empowering and celebrating.
Throughout National Foster Care Month, we’re sharing “Blessings Found in Fostering.” We’ve asked Encourage families and staff to tell us what they’re learning and the God moments they’ve seen along the way. Today’s story of blessing comes from Courtney McConahay, one of our foster care coordinators. Courtney cheers on our foster youth wherever they are in the journey.
I just have to brag on one of our foster teen boys. I was concerned about him at first, for building up his mental health and overcoming personality conflicts. He has been working with his foster dad on painting jobs, making money and saving up with a plan. He bought himself a lawn mower to mow lawns and a bike! He still owes $100 toward his bike and has a few upcoming jobs that will pay it off. This young man is so proud of himself. He was also talkative and in a great mood when we connected last week. He even took initiative to show me some new kittens in their family. I could see his countenance lifted, and I’m so proud of him for making progress! Way to go!
One of Encourage’s greatest needs is foster homes for teenage foster children. Our heart is for each teen to have someone cheering at their side for progress moments like this one and for achieving major milestones. If you would like to talk with one of our staff members about what it would like to welcome a teen into your home, Heather Huebner, Recruitment and Engagement Specialist, would be honored to process this decision with you. Reach out today at email@example.com or 330.462.1118.
One of the greatest needs within foster care is homes for teenage youth.
Providing them with a stable environment increases their likelihood of graduating high school and going on to college. Their home life experience may have been unstable, but that doesn’t decrease their God-given potential and dreams.
Cordelia Crenshaw, the new Miss District of Columbia USA, grew up in the foster-care system. Her determination helped her achieve a strong education and she is now a social worker and founder of a nonprofit. She recently shared her personal struggles and perspective on youth in similar circumstances.
Here’s what a lot of people don’t understand: To live in foster care is to live in a state of inconsistency. Due to a lack of resources, there simply aren’t enough quality foster homes, and rising housing costs make it even harder for foster families to find the space they need. This especially affects kids in urban areas. As a result, many more children end up in institutions, which are often rife with abuse and poor conditions.
Fostering a teen means giving support and stability at a time when education and relationships are significant. We would love to talk with and help you with questions regarding opening your heart and home to a teenager in foster care. Heather Huebner, Recruitment and Engagement Specialist would be happy to speak with you by phone or in person. Reach out today at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330.462.1118.
We also invite you to join us for an informal and authentic conversation on Tuesday, August 6 with Encourage staff and seasoned foster parents. Yes, you can fostertoo.com!
We receive many inquiries from families who are looking to adopt an infant or a young child. We are so thankful that you are considering this option to give children a forever family and we will gladly provide you a list of agencies that would be able to help you on your journey.
Our ministry focus at Encourage is fostering and foster to adopt. If you are looking to foster or foster to adopt and possibly take sibling groups, teens or children with medical needs than our agency would be a wonderful fit for you. These youth are our greatest priority.
We currently serve the counties of Ashland, Crawford, Coshocton, Cuyahoga, Harrison, Holmes, Medina, Portage, Stark, Summit, Tuscarawas and Wayne. And every month, our agency receives dozens of requests for foster homes for children from these counties.
We especially need homes for children over the age of five, brothers and sisters, and children who have experienced sexual abuse. Learn more about these children in foster care and consider how your home might provide safety and stability for a hurting child or teen when they need it most.
It is an exciting yet overwhelming step to open your hearts and homes up to a child or sibling group that has experienced separation, loss and trauma in their lives. Our mission is to connect foster and adoptive families with strong support systems that will equip them with the physical, emotional and logistical help they need.
Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions. We would love to assist you in any way. Reach out to Heather Huebner, Recruitment and Engagement Specialist, at email@example.com or 330.462.1118.
One of Encourage’s greatest needs is foster homes for teenage foster children.
Being a teenager is already hard enough.
Imagine not having support and stability at home while you navigate hormones, school, relationships and a host of other moments and decisions as graduation gets ever closer.
Imagine not having someone show you some of the things you took for granted like making mac and cheese, filling out a job application or learning how to drive.
Imagine not having someone see you and love you for you who are and help you reach your potential and chase your dreams.
Most children in foster care have not experienced what a real home is supposed to be like. The average foster child is not used to cooking with mom, eating at the dinner table, having a scheduled time to do homework, or even the basics like seeing parents. So you can give them a glimpse of what a home is supposed to be like. You can provide dinners at a table. You can offer up some time cooking in the kitchen. Just normal!
Providing a home and supportive relationship to a teen will come with challenges, but here are 10 reasons to foster a teenager in foster care.
No one should have to go through major life moments without someone cheering at their side. You could be that someone. Your home could be the first home that helps a teen experience his or her worth in Christ.
If you would like to talk with one of our staff members about what it would like to welcome a teen into your home, please contact us today. Heather Huebner, Recruitment and Engagement Specialist, would be honored to process this decision with you. Reach out today at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330.462.1118.