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Therapeutic Foster Caregiving in southern Alberta

Nicholas L. M. Allen

Aug 23, 2023

McMan Youth, Family and Community Services Association is looking to grow their therapeutic foster caregiving program in the area.

The McMan Youth, Family and Community Services Association is looking for help growing their therapeutic foster caregiving program in the Crowsnest Pass.

Damon VanGinneken, the director of services for McMan over all the programs they offer in Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Brooks, Crowsnest Pass and Pincher Creek.

“I’m not really involved in necessarily the day-to-day, but I’m involved in a lot of the initial implementation of programs and program design,” explained VanGinneken.

In the Pass, they provide some services for persons with developmental disabilities, both in their residences and the community. VanGinneken said they are helping to provide a positive quality of life for them.

“We’re also looking for therapeutic foster caregivers in that part of the province,” said VanGinneken.

He explained how therapeutic foster care is similar to traditional foster care, but has more sup-ports built in for the youth and for the families.

“The idea is that these are used for youth that require some level of treatment or therapeutic intervention based on the traumas that they’ve experienced historically in life, whether that be abuse or neglect or other things that have led to some difficulties for them,” added VanGinneken.

Where traditional foster care provides a safe home for these youth, therapeutic foster care provides a safe home and also provides therapists and psychologists who will go into the home.

“Behaviour specialists will collaborate with the foster family to build a really good treatment plan and have the youth do treatment in a family environment as opposed to being in an institutional environment,” said VanGinneken. 

According to VanGinneken, youth see even better outcomes within the family home compared to an institutional environment. 

“The ultimate goal is to get them back to their community of origin and their family of origin, whatever that might look like. Therapeutic foster care involves the family and community of origin partnering with the therapeutic foster caregivers as well... just an enhanced form of foster care, essentially,” said VanGinneken.

With the best outcomes coming from within a family home, providing these places and diverting youth into therapeutic foster care and away from places like group homes is the best option according to VanGinneken.

“There has been shortages of foster parents across the province, so by providing therapeutic foster care and saying not only will you be a foster parent, but you’ll have all these folks helping you out as well,” said VanGinneken.

The program has been running since April 2022 with homes in other parts of southern Alberta, but none in the Crowsnest Pass yet.

“We’d really like to be able to provide the service right in the Pass for those youth who are from that area, as opposed to having to relocate them to other parts of southern Alberta,” said VanGinneken.

McMan is hosting a hiring event on August 23 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Old York Creek Lodge.

“It’s been incredibly successful so far, we’re seeing really positive outcomes and we’re getting really good feedback from our families,” said VanGinneken.

According to the Canadian Child Welfare Research Portal, 7985 children were in care out of a total population of 469,965 children (ages 0-17) This is a rate of almost 17 children per 1000 in the province being in care.

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