An open heart, an open mind, and a lot of patience — the requisites of a Therapeutic Foster Care parent as described by Beth Stevens, program coordinator.
Therapeutic Foster Care is a small program of six individuals under the umbrella of Counselling Associates Inc.
Children who find themselves in therapeutic foster homes are there because they’ve been rejected by their families, neglected or abused and have experienced failed placements in the system.
Most have behavioral or emotional problems and may be transitioning from a hospital-type setting back into a home setting.
Foster parents who find themselves opening their homes to "troubled children" are specially trained individuals.
"The trauma that these children have experienced has left them hurt and fragile and in need of specially trained foster parents in order to provide a safe, loving home for them to begin to heal," said Tosha Fougerousse, TFC employee.
Madelyn Richmond and her family, Vilonia residents, represent one of the 20 Therapeutic Foster Care homes in Counseling Associates Inc.’s six-county area.
The family currently fosters two TFC children, a 5- and 7-year-old.
"I love it. They are a handful," Richmond said. "They have their problems and fits. It’s all stuff that’s there because of what they’ve been through. It’s enjoyable because you know you are helping someone. It makes you feel good to support kids who don’t have places to go."
A typical week in the Richmond household includes trips for both children to therapy appointments and visits from their case managers.
"It’s every day, all day," Richmond said. "I still have to get them up in the mornings and get them to school. During the day, I have to pick one up from school sometimes. The 5-year-old is very cranky in the morning, and he has to pick out his own clothes and do everything himself. The little girl is constantly getting distracted. She’s in a good mood but she’s hyper and she loves to goof off."
Richmond said she thinks of Therapeutic Foster Care as a full-time job.
"It isn’t just being a mom, which I love being, it’s also my job and it’s a full-time job," Richmond said.
Richmond said her husband, Anthony, and children, Samantha and Ethan Fullaway, also do their part to provide a therapeutic environment.
"It’s non-stop with them," she said. "My husband and kids do different things with them. They play and joke around. It’s fun but every once in a while we think, ‘Oh no, what did we get into?’ On the other hand, we see what we’re doing."
Madelyn and Anthony Richmond went through TFC training five years ago after reading about the program and welcomed their first foster child into their home, a 5-year-old girl.
"She was a handful. She threw major fits, kicking, screaming and biting. By the time she was adopted, she was fine," Richmond said. "She had calmed down and started doing good in school. We all cried when she left but we knew she was going to a better place than where she came from. It was good and bad — a good sort of bad."
Richmond said she is often approached and asked how she "does it."
"It’s a little crazy around here sometimes, but I wouldn’t have it any other way," Richmond said. "People ask how we do it. I tell them that I love the kids and I love the work that I do. It’s not just a job. It’s a part of me. If I didn’t have them, then my world would not be complete."
According to Stevens, Therapeutic Foster Care parents are often the best recruiters for the program.
"People will see them with the kids at church or in the community every day and they say they want to be involved, when before, they had visions of kids burning their houses down. A lot of people want to judge and they don’t want to bring kids with trouble into their homes," Stevens said. "There is a need. Not only for regular foster homes, but for specialized ones like in our program."
Therapeutic Foster Care parents must be 21-years-of-age or older without a criminal background.
Stevens said some qualifications must be met in the foster home, and training is free of charge.
For more information about the program, contact Stacey Helton, recruiter, at 479-968-1298.
(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)