August 5, 2019

From Patricia Chamberlain, PhD, Science Director, Oregon Social Learning Center

The Foster Homes of Healing (FHOH) is a coalition of ten organizations from across the state that are dedicated to improving foster care in Oregon through legislative action (see the FHOH website for information on membership and mission). During the recent legislative session, the FHOH focused on improving the Oregon child welfare system through making investments in research based programs to support foster parents to improve and stabilize the existing foster care system so that every current foster child has a safe place to call home.

Towards this end, the FHOH supported the statewide implementation of KEEP and Treatment Foster Care Oregon (TFCO). Both KEEP and TFCO were developed at the Oregon Social Learning Center (OSLC), a not-for-profit research agency established in Eugene in 1974. OSLC is comprised of 14 PhD-level social scientists who are funded by the National Institutes of Health and other Federal agencies to conduct scientific studies to benefit families (see oslc.org for further information).

KEEP is a support and skill enhancement program for foster and kinship parents that has been shown to increase placement stability, decrease parent stress, and improve child/teen outcomes. Parents meet in groups of 10–12 for 16 weeks to share experiences and learn science-based parenting strategies that have proven success with children and teens in foster care. TFCO is an alternative to group and residential care for children and teens experiencing serious problems with mental health and trauma. In TFCO, one child is placed in each highly trained and supported foster home, youth and their families receive therapy and other coordinated supportive services.

Legislative Approval!

Funding for both models was recently approved in the legislative session. The approved budget includes a $3.1 million expansion for the KEEP program to expand statewide. Families across the state will have access to participate in this comprehensive peer support group and practical training that includes childcare, food, and direct support for group members. Therapeutic Foster Care is funded at $3.5 million to add 169 beds to the system and $4 million for non-medical supports for foster families under Families First. TFCO is a prime candidate to contract for these funds under the Families First Prevention Services Act because the TFCO program meets the evidentiary standard under the act. You can learn more about KEEP at https://keepfostering.org and TFCO at https://www.tfcoregon.com.

These programs were both designed and tested to focus on the needs of children and teens in foster and kinship care who have experienced multiple traumas. Research clearly shows that early trauma has a negative impact on child brain development. Fortunately, there is an increasing body of evidence that finds that these negative effects can be ameliorated. Exposing children and teens to safe, predictable, and nurturing home environments, along with positive parenting, can help reverse the effects of trauma including the later development of problems with depression and anxiety. KEEP and TFCO are both based on Social Learning Theory that is trauma-informed and works to promote positive attachments in family settings. KEEP and TFCO focus on helping parents develop the skills needed to provide safe, predictable, nurturing care that emphasizes surrounding youngsters with abundant support, encouragement, and positive reinforcement for optimal development.

For further information contact Marissa Johnson marissa@fearlessfacilitation.net