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November 2013Vol. 14, No. 8Therapeutic Foster Care for Trauma-Impacted Youth

A traditional foster care placement may not adequately meet the needs of youth in foster care with severe mental, emotional, or behavioral health disorders. In these cases, therapeutic or treatment foster care (TFC) offering clinical interventions may be a better fit. A recent issue brief by the State Policy Advocacy and Research Center (SPARC) describes therapeutic foster care, best practices for this type of care, essential partners, and challenges to providing this care. Examples from States that have formed unique partnerships to treat youth with complex needs also are included in the brief.

TFC is not a placement. It is a strengths-based, evidence-informed, and trauma-sensitive treatment plan. A child lives in a TFC home offering interventions similar to those offered in restrictive, residential care settings but are provided by specially trained foster parents in local communities. TFC parents often receive twice the training as traditional foster care parents, with a focus on mental health and trauma disorders.
To enter TFC, a child must meet the medical requirements set by the State Medicaid authority and then be assessed based on his or her developmental stage, trauma experiences, physical and emotional health, and educational and behavioral deficits. TFC homes are then matched with the youth's specific needs.

Providing quality TFC requires partnerships among providers, State child welfare agencies, State mental health agencies, State Medicaid administrators, and others. SPARC's issue brief outlines the basic steps for provider agencies and child advocates for forming these relationships.

The SPARC initiative is supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative. Therapeutic Foster Care: Exceptional Care for Complex, Trauma-Impacted Youth in Foster Care, by Laura W. Boyd, is available here: (591 KB)

Related Item

The March 2013 issue of Children's Bureau Express featured the article "Treatment Foster Care and Well-Being," highlighting Foster Family-Based Treatment Association's Beyond Safety and Permanency: Promoting Social and Emotional Well-Being for Youth in Treatment Foster Care.