After raising three children of her own, 53-year-old Diane Depalo-Thompson delved into the world of traditional foster care, but found her calling in the alternative Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care program.
"I attended an orientation and the concept intrigued me," Thomson said. "I loved the support system, the way the program built a wheel around the child and really focused on developing that individual."
This, indeed, is the premise upon which Oregon Social Learning Center's evidence-based solutions MTFC model operates. Established in 1983, MTFC treats chronically disruptive behavior in the most troubled children within the juvenile justice, child welfare and foster care systems across the United States and Europe. The highly structured model requires a treatment team of foster parents, program supervisors, skills trainers and family and individual therapists to collaborate in creating opportunities for youth to successfully live in families rather than in group or institutional settings.
Program supervisors already have master's degrees in psychology or social work, undergo intensive social learning treatment and psychopathology development training through TFC Consultants, Inc., and oversee up to 10 cases. They serve as supportive consultants to the foster parents, supervise child treatment and development and are available for backup 24 hours a day. Family and child therapists hold master's degrees and work with both entities to achieve healthy lifestyles and reunification, if possible. Skills trainers help participants learn positive social behavior, career development and independent-living skills.
Edward Myers-Hayes, chief executive officer of the Cayuga Home for Children, supervises two different Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care for Adolescents programs in New York state. The facility located in central New York has provided temporary foster care placement for youth 12 to 17 since 2002, while the New York City Bronx site began offering an alternative to incarceration for 17- and 18-year-olds who have committed felonies in 2004. Both facilities, which offer 20 beds each, are funded by the state and serve about 40 teens a year.
Hayes said the 6-12 month MTFC-A programs are severely underutilized by New York social service and juvenile justice agencies despite Cayuga's efforts at outreach. He said because congregate care is more expensive, overcrowded and often miles away from the young person's home, he believes at least a third of the children that end up in those facilities would benefit from the MTFC family setting.
"Referral agents need to recognize that in the community, kids are going to get into trouble and that the inclination to arrest them is not helpful," Hayes said. …