• Embrace TFC

What is Treatment Foster Care, Anyway?

Updated: Jul 23, 2019

Foster care is already a mystery to most people in America. Unless you have personally fostered a child or know someone who was a foster child or foster parent, even the most basic knowledge of how the system works probably sounds like a different language. Which means the word “Treatment” (also sometimes called “Therapeutic”) in foster care is even MORE unknown. So it’s time to shed some light on what “TFC” or Treatment Foster Care really means.


Textbook Definition:

The Children’s Bureau, a subset of the Department of Health and Human Services, defines Treatment (also called Therapeutic) Foster Care as “out-of-home care by foster parents with specialized training to care for a wide variety of children and adolescents, usually those with significant emotional, behavioral, or social issues or medical needs.”



What it REALLY means:

Children in treatment foster care are in need of some form of “specialized care.” Therefore, they need a larger, highly qualified team of adults supporting them as the government works to establish a permanent home for the child, whether that is through reunification with their birth family/relative or through adoption.

Some key aspects of TFC:

  • Children in treatment foster care have specific medical or mental health needs that make them unique. These “medical” needs have a very wide range, anything from significant allergies to ADHD to complex trauma.

  • TFC children all have a treatment plan.

  • TFC children all have a therapeutic case manager who oversees their treatment plan, helping them pursue their goals towards improvement.This counselor is in addition to their local social worker.

  • Treatment Foster Parents have specialized training that give them added expertise in working with TFC children.

  • Depending on the state, there are typically more government funds dedicated to treatment foster children than traditional foster children because of the increased need for support (medication costs, more frequent doctor visits, etc.).



Why TFC is such a need:

Treatment foster care is a middle ground between foster families and residential treatment facilities. In the past, foster children with unique needs that could not be met by a standard, untrained foster family had no other option than being placed in a residential treatment facility. While these facilities may have the clinical resources (therapists, medication management, etc.) available to treat the child’s specific needs, they lack the nurturing, individualized family environment so crucial to the overall health and well-being of all children.


Thanks to the creation of the Treatment Foster Care program model, there is now an option for foster children with clinical needs to live within a loving foster family environment, while still receiving the active, structured treatment they also need.


The Impactful Role of Treatment Foster Parents:

Treatment foster parents play an extremely vital role in Treatment Foster Care. They provide a safe haven for children coping with mental or behavioral disorders who otherwise would not be able to stay in a loving home.


While the role of treatment foster parents can therefore be more challenging because of the nature of the child, they are also provided with far more training, government resources, and team support than traditional foster parents.


Embrace Treatment Foster Care, for example, provides our foster parents with ongoing, specialized, skill-based training to fully equip them to care for a treatment foster child. We provide them with whatever resources they may need as they foster, ensure around-the-clock support, and consider them a vital part of the Embrace team.


The goal for every child in foster care is to deliver them to a safe, loving, permanent home; either the home of their biological family or a newfound adoptive family.


However, it is just as important that children are loved and properly cared for while they are foster children, and the Treatment Foster Care program helps make this a reality.

The Children’s Bureau, a subset of the Department of Health and Human Services, defines Treatment (also called Therapeutic) Foster Care as “out-of-home care by foster parents with specialized training to care for a wide variety of children and adolescents, usually those with significant emotional, behavioral, or social issues or medical needs.”



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About the Author: Julie Gassaway works in administration at Embrace TFC. Having a background/skill set in administrative/technical support and communications, but a heart wired for children in need, she believes foster care administrative management is her perfect niche. Outside of work, you can find her drinking coffee with a good friend or trying bizarre recipes in her kitchen.