Treatment Foster Care
Coming from a family with many adopted cousins, I’ve always appreciated the great impact my aunts and uncles had on their lives. I grew up thankful that God had brought them into our family and I can’t imagine my family life without them! However appreciative I have been of the adoption option within the human spectrum, little have I known about foster care, and more specifically Treatment Foster Care.
Being a foster care parent is probably one of the noblest callings a person can have in his/her life. Being a Treatment Foster Care parent (TFC parent), however, brings new depth to the word “selfless.” Foster care involves removing children from abusive and neglectful situations within their biological home and placing them in the safe, caring home of a licensed foster parent. Treatment Foster Care specifically focuses on children who have behavioral, emotional and medical issues because of the neglect and abuse inflicted on them.
Because the trauma inflicted on these children is often imposed over a prolonged period of time, their outlook on life and on people is usually grim. The individuals and couples who choose to become Treatment Foster Care parents are the best chance these children will have at getting a glimpse of a better future. TFC parents are compassionate individuals who are committed to serving those children that are frequently dismissed as “trouble makers.”
Since many of the children in the TFC system suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, TFC parents have to undergo a greater amount of education and preparation than conventional foster care parents. TFC parents provide highly supervised care and attend a variety of trainings. They range from parenting and communication to depression, suicidal tendencies and even how to de-escalate hazardous situations.
I had the opportunity to meet Manny and Dolores Howie, TFC parents for over fifteen years. Dolores recalls learning about Foster care in Kindergarten, when one of her classmates was removed from her school. It was then she decided that she wanted to be a
Overall, Dolores says it is “a very humbling experience. The children touch our lives.” She wishes to emphasize that at any given time there are over 2,300 children in the foster care system. Hence, there is a great need for foster and adoptive parents. “At the same time,” she goes on to say, “it is not for everybody.” The Howies entered into Families & Youth, Inc. (FYI) which is a local, private, non-profit organization. FYI offers a TFC program for the community and provides support for the parent as well as the child. The goal of the program is to assist the child and
his/her family to learn the skills necessary to effectively function as a family system.
The greatest challenge the Howies faced when they began was finding balance between the requirements of the FYI program, compliance with the federal and state rules and reconciling the needs of their foster children with the needs of their own family. The Howies had three small children when they started foster parenting and juggling of priorities and schedules, was necessary so that everything could function properly.
The Howies try to instill, in the child that come into their home, that they are safe. In Dolores’s words, “The kids are anxious at night because of whatever may have happened to them in their past…they are afraid to trust.” Manny and Dolores provide nurturing structure in their home, a distinct contrast to what many TFC children are accustomed to in their own homes.
One of the biggest difficulties that Dolores has noticed is that often times TFC children have no moral compass. Along with helping them learn trust, they teach children about compassion, caring for others, commitment in relationships, patience and tolerance. “It can be especially hard because sometimes the kids go right back into the same situation they came from,” explains Dolores.
Where there is great trial, once overcome, there is great reward. When a child enters into the Howies home, one of the things they emphasize is that they are part of the Howie family now and forever. The Howies have former foster care children, who are now grown but still call and visit. Many of them now have their own children and still face challenges, but because of the love shown and the example set by foster care parents, they continue to strive toward a better future for themselves and their families.
Special thanks to the Howie family and Lynn Winters of FYI for their collaboration. For more information on Treatment Foster Care please contact Families & Youth, Inc. (FYI) at (575) 522-4004 or visit www.fyinm.org.
By Cecilia E. Ayala-Aguirre