Published on February 22, 2016
During February, the month of the Holy Family, we look to Mary, Joseph and Jesus as the model of what a family should be. We try to emulate the love, patience, understanding and forgiveness shown by the Holy Family in our own lives. Every family is different, and no family is perfect. Those involved with our Therapeutic Family Services program have seen families of every kind. TFS matches children who are medically fragile or have emotional, behavioral or developmental challenges with foster families who can provide them with a loving home. The end goal is to reunite these children with their families if possible. If not, TFS works to find them a permanent home.
The program’s administrator, Mamie Hall Landry, said, “It’s important to know that we aren’t replacing these children’s families, but we want them to feel part of a family while they’re with us.” Many foster parents have children of their own who play a large role in helping a foster child learn and adjust. Landry commented that, while in foster care, the children become so immersed in family life and activities that you’d hardly even recognize them as foster children. Foster families absorb these children as their own, taking them on vacation, celebrating birthdays and holidays, and involving them in family traditions.
The program provides foster parents with thirty hours of training every year covering topics from discipline to medical needs. The training sessions also serve as an outlet for foster parents to share stories and learn from other parents. Every child is unique and requires a personalized kind of care. “While they’re in our care, we want to give them the skills they need to get somewhere in life, wherever that may be for them,” Landry stated. Many foster parents believe this is their life’s calling and have been fostering children for well over a decade.
One family was matched with a young boy years ago, who eventually turned 18 and aged out of the foster system. He went on to attend community college and live his adult life, but he still continues to come back and visit his foster family regularly. Many foster parents have also adopted their foster children, giving them a permanent home if family reunification is deemed impossible. Happy endings and success stories are regular with this type of work, but the work is never finished. Landry said the thing TFS needs most right now is the ability to provide recreational activities to the children – dance classes, football leagues, trips to the park.
Besides that, they are in constant need of additional foster families. In this Holy Year of Mercy, Pope Francis urges us to take every opportunity to encounter the mercy of God through the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. One of the corporal works of mercy is to harbor the homeless, and foster children are, in essence, without a home. Being a foster parent allows you to serve as a role model and help a child learn, heal, and grow. The job is challenging, but the rewards are great.
If you or someone you know is interested in being a foster parent/family, please visit Therapeutic Family Services for details on the process and requirements.