Treat all children as our own

Sandy Banks offers a great perspective on the foster care system in her recent article in the Los Angeles Times where she propose that if  we took personally the care of the children in foster care, it would change for the better. In the February 9th article her daughter’s friend who was in foster care  asks her whether she would be able to drop off her own daughter at a residential facility. And her answer was “no.” Not because of the quality of care, but simply because as a mother it was impossible for her to imagine that even the finest of facilities and  dedicated staff could do justice to the needs of her child.

Having directed residential treatment facilities for very vulnerable children for almost 25 years, I agree with Banks. However, the need for residential care still exists as part of an array of services required to effectively treat children who have been traumatized.
Recently, I recall speaking to the father of a resident who described to me the powerlessness that he felt to adequately address the needs of his teenage son. The adolescent’s defiance and outbursts had disrupted the family. After many less intrusive attempts to provide care, the family was left with little recourse, but to consider residential treatment. Hillsides has been a real resource for this family as they hope for the reunification of their son soon.
There are many reasons to consider residential treatment. For some of our residents, the failure of their families to provide an adequate and safe environment prompts the placement. For others, extraordinary developmental or learning challenges lead to residential treatment. For all residents, trauma of one sort or another is at the root of the care they require.
More and more families are effectively engaged, allowing  well over 85% of those children we serve in our residential treatment program to return home, experience success, and enjoy their childhood.
So to address the opening question posed by Sandy Banks, would you drop your child off at a residential treatment center? Perhaps the answer is, “only if absolutely necessary.” It is an important question to address for us who, one way or another, provide services for children removed from their homes. The only way that care can be effective is if indeed the children are treated as one of our own.
I often remind staff that separation is a considerable hardship that our residents and their families experience. So, with that in mind, our responsibility is to ease that burden by providing the absolute highest quality care we can offer.

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