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.

The greatest need

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.

Learn more about becoming a foster parent today.