Understanding the lifetime of struggles that a child in foster care has already experienced can be a daunting task. These children may be removed, reluctant to talk or aggressive – and it takes a loving and patient adult to work through these issues and give the child a reason to open up. At Children’s Hope Residential Services, the dedicated staff, administration and mentors take the time to understand all of the youth who enter the doors of the facility that was founded in 2002. Since then, the facility has provided mental health treatment and other forms of care to more than 2,000 children placed within the Child’s Protective Services system in Texas. While many successes have come to Children’s Hope Residential Services in the decade-plus since its founding, workers have learned many lessons along the way. In the spirit of helping children everywhere, Children’s Hope Residential Services would like to offer the following advice when it comes to assisting at-risk youth and the adults who’ve made it their mission to help.
The importance of simply understanding the child can’t be understated. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the child in foster care has lost everything they may have once known – parents, homes, pets, schools, friends and so much more. The department’s Child Welfare Information Gateway adds that loss, grief, depression and confusion are common emotions shown by the child in need. To that end, the department suggests reading “Foster Care Therapist Handbook: Relational Approaches to the Children and Their Families” to understand the thinking processes of youth in need and how to help them move forward.
When it comes to educating the child that’s in protective services or under the guidance of a facility like Children’s Hope Residential Services, the stumbling blocks are many. That’s because health and human services figures show that the difficulty getting acclimated to a new school time and time again may be a contributing factor to the lower test scores and graduation rates that these children frequently exhibit. To address educational issues, HHS recommends reading “A Road Map for Learning: Improving Educational Outcomes in Foster Care” from Casey Family Programs to better approach placement, record transfers, preparation for secondary education and training educators for the responsibilities that arise in this specialized field.
HHS suggests helping these children find a sense of “normalcy” once again through federally-funded smartphone sessions, implementation of protective programs regarding sexual abuse, “participation in age-appropriate activities and experiences that allow for healthy development and well-being for youth involved in foster care” and more. While the responsibility of accomplishing this is on the shoulders of the facility and its workers, the plethora of resources currently available doesn’t mean you have to tackle the issues blindfolded.