Group links kids, treatment foster parents

By Ed Runyan


Many people have heard of foster parenting and adoption of children through a county Children Services agency, but what is treatment foster parenting?

It’s temporarily providing a home for a child who has emotional or behavioral issues, frequently brought on by abuse or neglect by their biological family.

“A lot of them come with emotions that are trauma-based, so the foster-care giver needs to be accepting and flexible with their schedule and get them to appointments,” said Karen Len-Hinely, a recruiter and trainer for Homes for Kids Inc., a nonprofit Niles organization.

Homes for Kids has been linking such children with treatment foster parents for 22 years and is hoping to recruit additional foster parents in the coming months.

But providing a home for such children, who have an average age of 13 or 14, is more difficult than traditional foster parenting, so Child and Family Solutions provides more help than normal.

“We train foster-care givers to specifically deal with these types of children” and provide support to the foster parents and child, Len-Hinely said.

“We’re in the home weekly — case managers, mental health worker, therapist,” and Homes For Kids provides 24-hour, seven-day support over the telephone, said Shannon Harnichar, director of foster care for the organization.

A brother and sister who came to Homes for Kids had sleeping disorders, severe hygiene issues relating to using the bathroom and aggressive behaviors, said Danette Palmer, coordinator of marketing and development.

“Their mom had abandoned them,” Palmer said. “They were living with their dad with no running water. They were neglected and abused, not in school,” Palmer said. They had lived that way for a few years, so it took a while for them to adjust to living in a normal home.

After a couple of years with their treatment foster parents and the treatment team from Child and Family Solutions, the children have made a successful adjustment and are adopted and going to school, Harnichar said.

“They’re involved in social activities and well-adjusted and doing well in their manners,” she said.

The requirements to be a treatment foster parent are: at least age 21; a strong support system to help cope with stress and crisis situations; transportation; and Ohio residency.

Foster parents can be single, couples or co-parents, and they are reimbursed for their expenses at a rate of between $30 and $65 per day, as well as reimbursed for training and transportation.

Child and Family Solutions works with about 50 children per year and has about 30 treatment foster-care homes now.

The children are referred by the county Children Services agencies in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties.

Harnichar says this type of parenting is harder than parenting one’s own children and can appeal to individuals who have already raised their own children.

Providing this type of home can provide a better outcome for the child than some types of group-home settings, Harnichar said.

During her 22 years of working with foster parents, Harnichar said one of the truest descriptions of the best foster parents is this: “A lot of them say ‘I just want to make a difference in a child’s life.’”

Homes For Kids will have a question-and-answer session about foster parenting from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at 43 North Main St. in Niles. No registration is needed. For more information, call 330-544-8005, ext. 413.

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