By Tippi Rasp Staff Writer



Children and teens in need of special foster care have few local families to help them through difficult times.

That's why Youth -- Family Services officials are asking interested families to contact them to begin the application process.

"We have a real need," said Randy DeWitt, therapeutic foster care and adoptive services coordinator for Youth -- Family Services. "The state has a real need for families that are capable and willing to take in teenagers."

Therapeutic foster care is for children and teens needing a higher level of care from families with a higher level of training to deal with behaviors. The training is more extensive, and there are more behavior management classes.

In most cases, children who require therapeutic placement have suffered greater abuse, including physical and sexual abuse, DeWitt said. Therapeutic foster care families must undergo multi-cultural and parenting training, and behavior management training to learn how to manage aggressive behavior.

DeWitt said six in 3,000 families will look at becoming foster parents, and just three of those six will become therapeutic foster families.

Youth -- Family Services provides counseling as a part of the therapeutic foster care program. The decision to place a child or teen into a therapeutic foster care home is made by Oklahoma Department of Human Services, DeWitt said.

DeWitt said families from various cultures are especially needed.

The benefits include paid vacation, a local staff and facilities, support services for foster parents and biological children in the home and consistent pay, training opportunities and 24-hour on-call support.

"This is not for somebody looking to make a buck," DeWitt said. "This is for people who have a calling to help children, particularly (those) that are hurting."

The fee paid is more than traditional foster care, but more is expected of a therapeutic foster family. A parent is required to be in line of site of the child or teen 24 hours a day, except during school or similar situations.

Ages of children assigned to TFC families are 4-17, although there are exceptions.

DeWitt said the need and ages in need runs in cycles. In the last few months, TFC homes for boys and girls ages 12-16 have been hard to find. DeWitt said as many as two to three referrals each day come into his office from across the state.

If there aren't enough local homes to place children in need of therapeutic foster care, they are taken out of town on a statewide referral.

DeWitt said about 2,000 children and teens in the state are in need, and only 900 TFC homes are available.

"That leaves more than 1,000 children without homes," DeWitt said.

Heather Leonard, Youth -- Family Services development director, said the organization as a whole offers a number of services for children and families at risk, including parenting classes, anger management classes, delinquency diversion programs and drug court.

For information on TFC or an information packet, call 233-8300, Ext. 14.



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