Before joining Buckner, I was a mental health professional for the local Mental Health and Mental Retardation authority in Dallas. While there, I saw firsthand the struggles children with mental health needs experienced, often as a result of the environments they were exposed to. It became clear to me that with cognitive behavior therapy, strength-building focus, teaching of effective strategies, intensive case management and regular follow-up sessions to maintain results, children who received nurturing support and stability led improved lives. 

Despite our efforts, there are still many children who do not receive this nurturance and stability from their families. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services continues to find children in these neglectful and abusive situations, which lead them to foster care. Once a child is brought out of that type of environment and into a safer one, it can be hard for them to cope, understand and function and their therapeutic needs began to manifest.

Therapeutic foster care differs from traditional foster care in the type of children served and the type of training foster parents are required to have. Children who are considered therapeutic have more intensive, complex needs than children who are in traditional foster care. Sometimes these children have some form of mental illness or have been exposed to or engage in substance abuse. Other times the child might have unmet developmental needs or developmental disabilities, a medical condition that requires time devoted to their specialized care or intensive behavioral misconduct that requires understanding, nurturing and intensive supervision.

We know many experienced foster families can look at their foster children and describe the behaviors they have seen, the sadness their children feel and the anger displayed into their homes and say there is no foster child with “basic” needs, regardless of how they’re classified. I also understand all foster parents desire to provide a loving and supportive home that is devoted to helping vulnerable children.

Therapeutic foster care, however, is a powerful intervention that encompasses nurturing care, safe and stable environments and structure for the most vulnerable of vulnerable children. Without therapeutic foster care, these children would be placed into hospital settings or in residential treatment centers.

Therapeutic foster care was developed as a solution where therapeutic foster parents become part of a collaborative team. This team’s main goal is to promote healing in a family setting within the community. At Buckner, the therapeutic collaborative team consists of the foster parents, foster child, CPS worker, Buckner case manager, therapists, behavior support specialist, educators, mentors, medical providers and more.

Buckner believes that providing a strong support to our foster families will help promote meaningful change in the child, an opportunity for healing and a chance at a permanent home they otherwise would never have access to.

If you have a desire to partner with Buckner in our ministry of helping the most vulnerable children in our society please contact Cameka Hart at 214-321-4512 or chart@buckner.org.

Written by Cameka Hart, therapeutic family specialist at Buckner Children and Family Services in Dallas.

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