Editor’s note: This is the fourth article in a series of stories that will focus on The Village Network and its programs offered in Knox County, including the Children’s Resource Center and the Knox Foster Care Network. Published every Thursday, this series has been designed to shed light on the problems facing troubled youth and how the resources available through TVN truly change their lives and the world we live in.
MOUNT VERNON — Surrounding its treatment foster families with support and guidance, The Village Network creates a web of resources that cultivates not only strong foster families but strong extended families that encompass both the foster and biological families.
The ultimate goal of treatment foster care is a reunification between child and biological family. To reach this goal, a plan is implemented for the child, and the birth parents, that include a therapist, case worker and both the biological and foster families. Following this plan is critical to reaching TVN’s goals, to achieve this, the perfect combination of child and family is a necessity.
The screening process for potential treatment foster care families is a demanding process that requires the family to answer tough questions when it comes to the children they are willing to invite into their home.
“Treatment foster care implies that they are tougher kids; they are more complicated kids as opposed to traditional or family foster care,” said Dave Paxton, regional director for TVN which includes the Children’s Resource Center in Mount Vernon. “It’s a big, big commitment and they see that up front. We talk about what kind of kids, what kind of background, do they want. Making the right match with foster kids is really important. They have to do a lot of soul searching.”
Children placed through treatment foster care require intensive therapy which will help the child overcome not only the trauma they experienced through physical and mental abuse and neglect, which is the root for their removal from the family, but also with the trauma of being ripped from their family.
“We are holistic about treating the entire child,” said Paxton. “It’s amazing to watch kids’ resiliency. No matter how difficult that family is struggling, or some of the awful experiences that family has been through, that connection between that kid and that family is rock solid. They want to go back home regardless of the horrible abuses they have been through. You have to respect that bond or the kids will resent it and it will all back fire.”
“It is truly a commitment from the very beginning,” said Kelly Casteel, licensing specialist for TVN. “You have to understand you are taking in children and are providing safety and care for that child. You have to meet the treatment needs of that child including doctor appointments, therapy appointments, medication management or interaction with the birth family.”
Casteel explained a six-page Child Care Checklist must be completed as part of the licensing process. This list includes examples of issues children could have and whether or not the foster family would consider, or not consider, children with these experiences.
“It will give examples of a fire setter or a child with attention deficit,” Casteel said. “We work cooperatively with that family to ensure we are matching a child in that home. We’re not just calling and giving them a child from a referral. We try to work hand in hand because that is the key to the best matches.”
Part of the network of resources includes at least weekly therapy sessions for the child at CRC.
“In the treatment foster care network we provide a lot of services,” Paxton said. “At least once a week they come here to the network for mental health treatment. Sometimes that mental health treatment involves foster families to work out particular issues, and family therapy. We are out to the home at least twice a month making eye contact with the parents and kids.”
In addition, foster parents, or advocates, are required to attend weekly advocate meetings that provide an opportunity to discuss or work out issues within the family dynamic.
“We do have weekly advocate meetings where we can discuss behavioral issues or problems working with birth families,” Casteel said. “We are also available on-call to help families out during any kind of crisis that arises any time of the day or night. We are there to help them to be able to be successful in maintaining that child in the home.”
A 70-hour orientation is required to be licensed as a treatment foster care family. Casteel said topics in this orientation include how to discipline, religion, confidentiality, the matching process, effects of placement separation and detachment issues being separated from family and working with kids who have experienced sexual abuse, physical abuse or neglect and community resources.
There are 75 licensed treatment foster care families in Knox, Licking and Delaware counties. Paxton said 25 of those families are here in Mount Vernon and Knox county. The need for treatment foster families, however, is growing faster than the number of families.
Anyone interested in becoming a treatment foster care family is encouraged to call Casteel at 393-0533.