Meet TFCO Carer, Kayla

Meet Treatment Foster Care Oregon Carer, Kayla

Kayla has been caring for adolescents in OzChild’s Treatment Foster Care Oregon (TFCO) program for the past year and a half after seeing an advert on the back of a bus one morning.

“I was dropping the kids at school and a bus in front of me was advertising TFCO. I had thought about becoming a foster carer before, but I like to think this was a ‘sign’, it was time,” says Kayla.

Kayla remembers driving home that day with one thing on her mind; OzChild. “I just kept saying over and over OzChild, OzChild, so I didn’t forget. As soon as I got home, I Googled it and then went along to an information session.”

Kayla has a background in Early Childhood Education, before TFCO Kayla was a family daycare provider where, often she would take kids under her wing when parents were having trouble or needed a break.

“We all have a role to play when it comes to looking after our kids, supporting each other. If that means caring for a child for a short time so they can return to their family then that’s what we do,” says Kayla.

And that’s exactly the idea with TFCO. This successful program places children and young people with a specially trained TFCO foster carer for around nine months and was developed as an alternative to residential placements for children and young people with severe emotional and behavioral difficulties.

At the end of the placement, the child or young person is reunified with their biological family (including kinship carers) or placed in lower intensity long-term foster care.

And it’s working. Kayla has seen how successful the model is, having guided one young person through to graduation and reunification with family, she is now caring for a second young person who entered the program just a few months ago.

“Everything works together with TFCO. The daily structure of the program and clear expectations for the kids as well as the consistent reinforcing environment and the encouragement they get means it works, for everyone.”

“Sometimes when we are right in the deep of it, I just remind myself that it works, it all just clicks, and we need to trust the process. Looking back, I can absolutely see, TFCO works for these kids.”

The TFCO model teaches interpersonal skills and encourages the young person to participate in positive social activities including sports and hobbies. They are coached to develop and practice skills in community settings and supported to build a range of coping strategies and problem-solving skills to address areas of difficulty in their lives.

“The kids we have cared for they have had trouble processing feelings, they have trouble differentiating when they are angry or when they are sad, it all just comes out as anger, they don’t understand it or can’t express what is wrong so they just explode, often going from zero to losing it within seconds,” says Kayla.

The young person Kayla is currently caring for in the program struggles to build relationships, make friends and pick up on social cues, “the kiddo wants to be friends but just doesn’t know how to talk to other kids,” says Kayla.

Having other kids in the street to play with has helped a lot and sometimes the young person will use time earnt through good behaviour to play in the street riding scooters or bikes, “it has been nice to see these friendships develop, it’s little things like this that make being a carer so worthwhile,” says Kayla.

“The small changes for me are the best, the hugs, the manners, the notes they leave you to say thanks, seeing them change, the progress that occurs along the way, that is what makes caring for these kids most rewarding.”

While the rewards are plentiful being a foster carer can be challenging at times. Kayla is grateful to have the support of the OzChild TFCO team who are only a phone call away.

“In the beginning I was using the 24/7 on call support line all the time, I’m pretty sure I was the only carer who did,” laughs Kayla.

“There was always some sort of drama going on, so knowing that extra support was there makes all the difference.”

While the TFCO team have been of great support, Kayla appreciates having other carers from the program available to talk to, “we often message each other outside of the weekly meetings, we might not discuss much about TFCO but it’s good to know someone else who understands is there if you need to talk.”

Kayla believes her patience and ability to stick to the program helps her the most, “I just go with the flow but always set very clear boundaries. I honestly thought caring for a young person in the TFCO program would be a lot worse than it actually is, but I think the structure and support helps a lot.”

“I think the hardest part so far for us has been when the kiddo has been in trouble at school. Suspensions are hard, it means they are home all the time, you don’t get a break. I wish schools were a bit more understanding of these kids, I didn’t expect the lack of support from schools.”

“But, we love TFCO because it fits so well with our life and I am able to stay at home to look after the kids, to take them to their appointments and treatment sessions.

“Honestly, for anyone considering becoming a TFCO foster carer, I say, DO IT! But you must come into it with your eyes wide open.

“We are very aware the end goal is to have the kiddo returned to their family. Deep down that’s where they want to be, it’s what they want, and it is the best thing for them.”

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