The difference between Traditional vs Treatment Foster Care

Husband and wife with a child under a toy roof

In the United States, Seven percent of children in foster care aged out of the social services system in 2018. This left young adults without the emotional, financial, and instrumental support to live a successful life. With over four hundred thousand children in the foster care system, there is a growing need for foster parents to care for and help raise foster children. 

But, because the system is vast, not everyone realizes there are different types of foster care. There is both treatment foster care and traditional foster care. Continue reading to learn about the key differences between these options and better understand how the system operates.

Traditional Vs. Therapeutic Foster care

Foster care is part of the child welfare system, a temporary living situation for children and adolescents as their family of origin cannot provide a safe and secure environment. In Virginia, the Local Department of Social Services (LDSS) is responsible for securing the appropriate placement for a child that has entered the foster care system.

The LDSS could place a child in a traditional foster home or treatment foster care home licensed by Child Placement agencies (LCPA). Depending on their treatment needs, children in foster care could also reside in a group home, residential facility, or acute hospital.

Children can enter the foster care system for many reasons. They usually enter the system due to their guardians' neglect, abuse, or trauma. Drug use in the home is another common reason children end up in the foster care system. 

Children in the foster care system need a psychologically safe space where the impact of what they have experienced can be addressed while their family of origin works on the court plan. They need empathy, compassion, general comfort, and safety. Children often have trust issues, hardships succeeding in school, and emotional disturbances.

Treatment Foster Care (TFC)

Treatment Foster care requires helping children with trauma issues. TFC helps them acclimate to new living situations. Children in foster care experience a grieving process, missing their family, friends, and churches, and sometimes changing schools.

Treatment foster parents are trained to be trauma-informed and should provide a healing environment for the children to explore. Children who have experienced trauma may have delays educationally, emotionally, and behaviorally. The Treatment foster parent will be provided with training to meet the needs of the children placed in their home.

The idea is to offer a wide range of support to create positive outcomes for these children with specialized needs. The goal is to strengthen the children's relationship with their birth parents.

Treatment foster families aim to help the transition toward reuniting with family. Foster parents' homes are seen as the primary source for facilitating treatment. Foster parents have a massive role in helping aid children in their transitory stage in life. They provide the resources to integrate the goals for the children into reality.

Traditional vs. Treatment Foster Care program

Both traditional and TFC within the child welfare system require training and support for the foster parents involved. Traditional foster care homes don't have specialists checking in weekly. TFC has case management services, and the case manager checks in weekly at foster homes to ensure the child and family members receive the needed support.

Children under treatment foster care may attend individual and group therapy sessions. TFC homes collaborate with other professionals in the community to ensure that the child's needs are being met promptly.

Training Involved in Foster Care

Each agency that licenses Treatment foster care homes has a standard number of hours a family must attend to be certified. Also, the majority of TFC agencies provided monthly ongoing training.

Treatment foster parents learn methods to encourage positive coping mechanisms and manage difficult situations. It is so that the children who have extra needs are getting the support they need proactively.

Treatment Foster Care Staff Members

There are different staff members involved in Treatment foster care that parents may work with. The personnel help train and extend support to foster care homes. Their priority is for the children to have a welcoming, nurturing home environment.


TFC supervisors oversee case managers. They collaborate with a team focused on setting goals to provide resources for the children as part of the treatment intervention teams. The supervisor provides the training to parents and participates in the program's evaluation process. 

Clinical Specialist

Clinical Specialists supervise the children placed in foster homes. They communicate with birth parents and foster parents, establishing a collaborative relationship. Their goal is to ensure everyone's needs are communicated, giving the children the best possible opportunities for growth and success. The clinical Specialist can have up to 12 children on their caseload.

Family Service Specialist

Family Service specialists oversee the licensure of foster parents. They are in charge of many functions related to the general development and monitoring of foster homes. 

Benefits of Treatment Foster Care

Now that the fundamental differences between traditional and treatment foster care have been established, it's essential to know the benefits of the extra challenge of TFC. 

Fostering is challenging, but through TFC, you get more resources to help provide a thriving environment for foster kids to heal. You are part of the treatment team that assists in developing goals, assists in day-to-day living skills and is someone the child can talk to.

The rewards from fostering are more significant as more work and care are involved towards these children. It's also reassuring to help older children, as some foster or adoptive parents prefer younger children.

Requirements for Becoming a Treatment Foster Parent

Before becoming a treatment foster parent, there are a few requirements. These requirements include the following.

  • Twenty-one years or older (FosterVA age is twenty-five years old)
  • Financially stable 
  • A resident of the US
  • Pass background test from the criminal justice system 
  • Pass children and family services background test (Child Protective Services - CPS)

Beyond passing these qualifications, foster care parents must receive the official licensure for fostering while conducting over thirty hours of training. You will also need to pass a fingerprint background examination by State Police and the FBI. Anyone who will regularly be involved in helping raise foster children may also need to provide their fingerprints for this purpose.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does a child stay in foster care?

This question is difficult to answer because it ranges from a few days to weeks to years. The average length is from twelve to eighteen months. Reunification can only occur under safe conditions, including parents' mental health, living arrangements, and the care of services when a child returns home.

Other options, such as adoption or independent living, are explored if these conditions do not occur.

Can you choose what child to foster?

Yes, you can. You can specify the age and gender of the child you'd like to foster. You can also choose which emotional, social, developmental, etc., disabilities you are most comfortable providing help with.

When can you expect to become a foster care parent?

This occurs after you receive the correct licensing, which takes about 90 to 120 days after filling out your application; you have to do the training, complete home studies, etc. Still, we will keep up with you if you want to go faster, but 50 days is the quickest the process can be completed due to background checks completed to protect children who will be in your care.

If you have signed up to be an emergency care foster parent, you may be assigned a child to care for at a moment's notice.

If not, you can expect a call when a child needing treatment foster care that matches your requests comes in from your child Placing agency.

Choosing the Right path

How do you know if treatment in foster care is right for you? It can be hard to know which system you'll thrive in. Being a foster care parent is an admirable and rewarding commitment, no matter which system you choose.

Take into account your schedule and availability when making your decision. Always perform your research so you are educated walking into any given situation.  You can always go slow and start with respite care children in treatment foster care always need an enjoyable break with a fun family, and that could be you.

Foster Today

Don't wait to get involved in treatment foster care. Because it takes training, licensure, and commitment, starting the process early helps bring you closer to your goal of helping children in need. 

Contact Foster VA here to start the process of becoming a foster parent. The children in the foster care system will appreciate your courage and consideration.

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