Efforts Underway to Keep Special Needs Foster Kids in County

Of the 500 children in Santa Barbara County’s foster care system, several dozen with special needs are currently living outside of the county in residential care facilities. To help combat this problem, the county’s Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services and Social Services departments have collaborated with the Family Care Network — a nonprofit that serves more than 1,4000 children a year — to launch a new program to treat foster children with emotional disturbances or serious behavior problems.

As opposed to traditional foster care, in which the primary concern is placement, the new Intensive Therapeutic Foster Care (ITFC) program will include a team of service providers who treat kids with special medical and emotional needs.

Eligible for services will be children placed in group homes or at-risk for hospitalization. “Therapeutic parents” will receive special training, support and guidance, and an enhanced monthly stipend. “The goal is always to keep kids in the county,” said ADMHS Chief Strategy Officer Suzanne Grimmesey, adding that currently there are 37 children placed out of the county (though the number is fluid).

Those interested in learning more about how to provide a therapeutic foster home can call the Family Care Network at (866) 781-3535.

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