Therapeutic care a leap of faith

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Any child taken away from their natural parents and placed with a stranger can be expected to need a home full of patience and love.

Columbiana resident Soloine Madison attempts to provide such a home for the children she takes in as a therapeutic foster parent.

&8220;I can give you something. I can give you my life experiences,&8221; Madison tells the children she cares for.

Madison said she grew up in a loving family and that her desire to be a foster parent came from seeing the lives her own mother touched. Now she touches lives through everyday activities.

&8220;There&8217;s a different side of life that many of these kids have never seen,&8221; Madison said. &8220;Being in the kitchen making a lemon pie… &8216;Oh my god I never knew that was how you made a lemon pie,&8217; they&8217;ll say. Or baking biscuits, they&8217;re not used to these things and it startles me by how excited they are to do these things.&8221;

Therapeutic foster children do require more concentrated care than the typical foster child because many have been mentally, physically or sexually abused.

&8220;One of the greatest challenges is when that child walks into your home; they don&8217;t trust you,&8221; Madison said. &8220;So you&8217;ve got to let them know; hey I&8217;m going to be here for you.&8221;

Madison and many others have been trained to handle difficult situations through Gateway, the United Way agency that runs the therapeutic foster care program.

&8220;I think many outstanding potential TFC parents don&8217;t get involved, because they don&8217;t understand the program,&8221; said Jim Loop, Gateway&8217;s xecutive director.

Therapeutic foster families receive 40 hours of training as well as ongoing support. While in the home, social workers and counselors evaluate the kids through psychiatric consultations. They also make available clinical intervention and 24-hour emergency support for the parents. Madison said getting the support from the agency and her family makes the load lighter and that she wishes more people would get involved.

&8220;The more children I deal with the more I see the need for foster parents especially here in Shelby County,&8221; Madison said. &8220;There are very few therapeutic foster parents and even if we could just get 10 here, that would make a big difference.&8221;

Eventually the children are either reunited with family members or placed in other permanent homes. These homes were created in 1989 by the Alabama State Department of Human Resources through pilot programs like the one put into place by Gateway.

Currently, 149 children live in foster care in Shelby County, with 14 of those placed in therapeutic foster care homes already. In 2006, 17 children placed in foster care were identified as children who could potentially benefit from a TFC home. That leaves 14 kids who still need specialized attention.

For more information on how to become a therapeutic foster parent, contact Gateway at (205) 510-2600