Family and Relationship

A brighter future for Foster Children

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Children are our future. These words have such a profound meaning which is often lost on most of us. It is only when our young people derail that we wonder what the future holds for them…and for us. Prevention and long term vision is the basis of a new fostering program in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. The scheme, called ‘Treatment Foster Care’ was newly introduced in the UK and will make a real difference in the lives of foster children aged between 10 and 16, whose behavioural problems prove too challenging for regular foster care.

Treatment Foster Care started over 20 years ago in the US. Young people who participate in this foster care scheme have thereafter fewer placement disruptions, more frequent reunifications with birth families, and lower rates of child behaviour problems. They also tend to participate less in criminal activities or to run away from foster families.

Children need to be nurtured at the core of their being in order to thrive. They need to feel loved, respected and be given space to unfold their own young lives. But most importantly, they need to know that they matter. One of the key factors in children’s capacity to learn is for them to know that someone cares that they do learn. A research in the US spent 20 million dollars to come to this conclusion!

Children falling prey to poor parenting end up in care, often drifting from one foster family to another, unable to develop adequate social skills and lasting bonds which will set them back on track. These young people end up filling our custodial centres and are set for worse troubles as time goes by.

The concept of Treatment Foster Care is to give foster children one-to-one specialised care for a period of 9 to 12 months. Carers are given excellent training and support from a wide range of professionals to maximise their positive input into the lives of the foster child. No other children are present in the fostering family. This enables the carers to give their undivided time and attention, in a manner that guides the child towards constructing their social skills, building up their self-esteem and helping them awaken to their own worthiness.

The progress of both the child and the carer is monitored daily. Supported by clinical psychologists and psychiatrists, carers have weekly meetings with professionals and the children are given life skills training.

The placement of 9 to 12 months is usually sufficient for a child to be equipped with adequate social skills as well as a good dose of self-esteem so that they can go back to main stream fostering, to be adopted or even reunited with their birth families.

Fostering such troubled children is a big challenge, yet people are willing to take them on for many different reasons. The prime motive, however, must be a love for children and their desire to have a positive impact on a young life before too much damage has been done. For foster parents, it is a great reward to see the positive changes taking place in their foster child. Others opt for such care because of the cutting edge nature of the program and the high level of support. They are also attracted by the challenges that will stretch their fostering skills. And of course, many are interested in Child Psychology and Treatment Foster Care is a fertile ground in which to acquire new knowledge in this field.

Whatever motive drives these foster people, the importance of what they are doing is invaluable to these children’s lives and to society as a whole. Their participation is much more than just facing big challenges for 12 months in their lives. The positive impact is life changing for the children and ensures that, thanks to them being taught well, they, too, will one day be able to lead the way.

If you are interested in taking part in the Treatment Foster Care in the Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, please contact Camilla Swart on 020 7736 3684


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