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.

2 Hour Tuesday

This has been a year of unknowns and uncertainties. We are incredibly grateful for the safety and stability Encourage foster families provide the youth in their care. Our team is here to help you navigate this season and provide quality tools and resources to keep you on track.

While we wait for in person First Friday foster parent trainings to return, Encourage is now offering 2 Hour Tuesday online trainings through Zoom. Open to any licensed foster parent, participants will earn two hours of face-to-face training credits. No sign up is required. Join us as your schedule allows.

In August, we’ll take a look at helping children in times of crisis through Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI). Learn more about rupture and repair and how to help kids heal from big and small traumas in the midst of a pandemic.

2 Hour Tuesday: The Power of Repair
August 18, 6-8pm
Join the Zoom training.

Enjoy this timely session from the comfort of your home. For more information, contact Whitney Beougher, LSW, foster care assessor and trainer at beougherw@ccho.org.

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.

The power of connection

This summer, Encourage Foster Care offered Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) training to all of our foster families. TBRI was developed at Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University, which defines TBRI as “an attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention that is designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children. While the intervention is based on years of attachment, sensory-processing and neuroscience research, the heartbeat of TBRI is connection.”

Encourage uses the TBRI approach because connecting and belonging is central to the human heart. It is central to how we were created in God’s image. Out of that is a deep desire for connection with those near to us. TBRI is consistent with Scripture’s message of a loving God who offers grace and redemption for both our spiritual condition and our physical and relational brokenness.

TBRI offers practical tools to effectively empower and connect with children from hard places. Its roots are found in Attachment Theory, the idea that infants create special bonds with their caregivers. Children with secure attachments have healthy social functioning and fewer behavioral problems at school, and they often become competent leaders within their peer groups. TBRI teaches caregivers to develop mindfulness strategies about their own attachment styles and how to best connect with children who come into their homes from hard places.

Our foster parents feel empowered by TBRI because it’s helping them strengthen relationships with their foster children. We love to hear how foster parents are growing themselves by developing a more secure attachment. Many of our foster families have their own broken histories, and like all other families, may have struggles with their biological children. TBRI offers hope to families so they can take better care of themselves, and in turn, take great care of the kids in their home.

TBRI principles are also used across our family of ministries. CCHO’s Children’s Residential Center uses TBRI to develop trust with new residents. The residential cottages and many of our foster homes use the empowerment principles to help children build trust through nutrition and hydration. Many of our kids have food issues. Staff and foster parents are finding that offering healthy snack options is a great way to engage and connect. Encompass Christian Counseling utilizes Attachment Theory. Helping parents develop self-awareness of how they attach to others and how they can work on themselves improves their relationship with their children.

Encourage case managers reinforce TBRI principles with foster parents to ensure they are utilizing this method daily with their youth. Going forward, TBRI will be included in our pre-service foster parent training.

Trainings such as this one are just one way that Encourage equips our foster parents to be successful in what God has called them to. For additional information about becoming a foster parent, please contact Heather Huebner, Recruitment and Engagement Specialist at huebnerh@ccho.org or 330.462.1118.

TBRI in the news

Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) is an evidenced-based model for parenting traumatized youth. This relational approach to caring for kids with high levels of abuse, neglect and trauma is gaining recognition as it is successfully helping kids progress relationally and behaviorally. This emerging method takes into account that children need to feel safe and connected before than can receive correction or instruction.

The method is part of a growing “trauma-informed care” movement that says abused kids need more than one hour a week in a therapist’s office to recover. Their day-to-day caregivers must know how to interact with them in healing ways.

As we make plans to introduce TBRI curriculum to all of our treatment families, here’s one foster family’s experience with this technique.

“It’s all about the child building their trust in you,” Deanna said. “This takes awhile because they’ve never had a parent or anyone in their life who showed any kind of stability.” She explained that abused children often aren’t able to “self-regulate” — the pain and trauma they’ve experienced keeps them in fight-or-flight mode, with the chaos and intensity of their feelings prompting all sorts of dysfunctional behaviors. “You just have to get down to their level and talk to them calmly, to understand what’s really causing the behavior,” she said.

(Read the full article here.)

We encourage our families by equipping them with physical, emotional and logistical supports. Providing our families with practical training such as TBRI is one way we can support them in caring for children with trauma.

Blessings this year

Encourage’s director, Shawn Pedani, LISW-S, reflects on the year . . .

Our team recently had a year-end get-together and reflected on all the highlights and blessings we’ve seen from God this past year within Encourage. I thought I’d hear their excitement of the new growth with more foster families and the ability to place more children as well as new local church partnerships who share in the same passion to help children locally.

However, what I heard was worth noting and sharing with our extended Encourage family. The staff shared that while they were thrilled with the addition of 19 new families (not including the current 12 in process), they were even more thrilled with the growth internally in our department. Our team was ecstatic about expanding to neighboring communities and churches as well as the depth of our staff.

Team members voiced their feelings about growing together with one unified purpose. One team member shared, “I feel like we are bigger but at the same time more singular in our mission.” Another commented that we were making strides to implement Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI), an evidenced-based model for parenting traumatized youth, to all of our treatment families. A staff who joined the team in 2018 felt she was “welcomed into a wonderful community that will support, uplift and challenge you in the workplace.”

I simply love that about our team.

With a busy 2019 in the works as it relates to trainings and licensing families, I’m happy to report the progress of new programs launched in 2018. We are seeing wonderful development and rich connections with our new mentor program: A Friend in Fostering. While not everyone can take in a foster youth, everyone can help or volunteer. We are also beginning to see more and more families considering and taking in youth who are otherwise, a challenge to place. We believe this comes as result of the additional trainings and support we are providing through the First Fridays events and TBRI curriculum. This will be a continued focus in the new year.


Looking forward to all that God will do in 2019,
Shawn