All children deserve to grow up in a family and have a strong sense of self, purpose and belonging. We believe that adopting children from foster care requires specialized preparation because no child should have to age out of foster care and no adoption should fail. Children in foster care have been victims of abuse and/or neglect and siblings are often separated due to the limited capacity of the foster care system to keep them together. Abuse, neglect and separation are profoundly traumatizing and the effects of early childhood trauma can last a lifetime if not addressed, negatively impacting health, emotional well-being and relationships. We believe that adoption disruption and adoption failure can be avoided for these already traumatized children and for well-intentioned adoptive parents/families by utilizing the Trauma Informed Foster Care Adoption Model (TIFCAM) developed by CHRIS Kids. TIFCAM brings together our expertise in trauma counseling, expertise in working with traumatized children and teens in foster care, expertise in wraparound services that strengthen at-risk families and our expertise in training.
TIFCAM is grounded in an understanding of trauma and provides essential parenting and trauma training, counseling and ongoing support for children adopted from foster care and for adoptive families. TIFCAM also gives children emotional space, support and a process within which to truly have a “voice and choice” in selecting an adoptive family, just as the family has a “voice and choice” in selecting the children. TIFCAM is being implemented in partnership with the State of Georgia Department of Human Services and targets children who represent the hardest-to-place special needs foster children in the system, including sibling groups. TIFCAM's long term impact is enhanced wellbeing for children and adoptive families.
The Trauma Informed Foster Care Adoption Model has four components:
- EDUCATION & TRAINING: In addition to the IMPACT training required by the State for foster and adoptive parents, additional training in understanding trauma and the impact of early childhood trauma on a child’s development, behavior and ability to build trusting relationships is required. Common potential issues are identified and discussed.
- ASSESSMENT, TREATMENT & SUPPORT: The TIFCAM process includes a trauma assessment not only for the children, but for the potential adoptive parent(s)/family so that strengths and potential stumbling blocks can be identified, planned for, and addressed. Individualized trauma “tool kits” are developed to help prepare children and adoptive parents to deal with potential stumbling blocks and to enhance a sense of self determination and belonging. The TIFCAM process also includes a minimum number (6 – 12) of required adoption counseling sessions during pre-placement visits and six months of post-placement counseling (12 – 24 sessions) and home visits. Six months of post adoption counseling is highly recommended. On-going support groups and activities for the adoptive children and family are encouraged and available throughout the entire adoption process and post adoption.
- VOICE & CHOICE: This specialized approach is intentional about providing both the foster children and the adoptive parents a voice in the selection process, the matching process, the placement process as well as education about what is normally expected. This process promotes listening and understands that trust takes time to develop. It understands that children and sibling groups in foster care who are eligible for adoption may have already experienced placement instability and a number of psychological “rejections”, in addition to the abuse and/or neglect which precipitated placement in the foster care system in the first place. The TIFCAM process allows for the establishment of a “get to know you” visitation process as a part of the selection and placement process.
- GATEWAY FOSTER HOME: A unique component of TIFCAM, a pre-adoption/assessment/ transition home or Gateway Foster Home was developed for sibling groups including those who may include one or more very high needs siblings who may have been residing in a residential facility, hospital or group home and have a history of instability (frequent moves) while in foster care. The Gateway foster home provides a safe, trauma informed environment; groups with other children engaged in the same process; and adoption support services. Visitation over time coupled with counseling helps these hard-to-place sibling groups achieve success. The home provides a safe, familiar surrounding for children who may disrupt an adoptive placement if placed too quickly. As with foster care children who do not require the Gateway foster home environment, a minimum number of individual and family pre-placement counseling sessions (6 – 12) and six months of post-placement counseling sessions (12 – 24) and home visits will occur. On-going support groups and activities for the adoptive siblings and family are encouraged and available.
- Children have a “voice and a choice” which enhances their sense of agency
- Both youth and perspective adoptive families participate in a trauma assessment. Using the home study, child(ren)’s history, and trauma assessments; matching includes the protective capacities of the family and the protective needs of the children
- A consistent licensed therapist from foster home or pre-adoption home to placement in an adoptive home and 6 months after finalization
- A consistent adoption specialist or program case manager from foster home or pre-adoption home to placement in an adoptive home and 6 months after finalization
- Gateway foster home provides a safe, transitional home setting with highly trained staff for sibling groups who may not have lived together for a period of time and that may include a sibling who have suffered placement instability or be coming from a residential facility, hospital or group home setting
At CHRIS Kids all programs and services are based on the principles of trauma informed care. We believe that this approach is fundamental to the well being of children and families and that the Trauma Informed Foster Care Adoption Model developed by CHRIS Kids provides an important solution for traumatized children that makes it possible for them to succeed, be loved, and flourish in a forever family. We will be partnering with Georgia State University to research the efficacy and outcomes of the TIFCAM model and the impact and outcomes of the Gateway Foster Home component of the model as we expand our numbers and grow enough to support valid research. Presently we have one Gateway Foster Home, another opening on August 15th and plans to open two more as we raise funds over the next few years. Our goal is for TIFCAM is for it to become a national adoption model utilized to ensure that children, particularly high needs children, and sibling groups have to be afraid that the adoption “won’t work out” and that they (or one of them) will be returned to foster care.