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.