It took a compassionate couple, combined with an innovative foster-care program, to finally—after nearly 16 years—help heal a troubled teen and set him on a hope-filled path toward long-term happiness. KCBS News recently aired a People2Watch segment featuring the couple, two Hathaway-Sycamores’ foster parents who are making a difference. Click here to see the segment.
Removed from his biological mother at two-months old, Jude spent his formative years bouncing from foster home to foster home. At age 7, he was adopted, but years of previous trauma had left a wake of seemingly intractable behavioral problems that led Jude down a destructive path. Unable to cope, his adoptive parents rescinded their adoption and sent Jude at age 13 back into the foster-care system.
Committed life partners, Chris Hopgood and Morton Lee felt compelled to make a positive difference in the life of a youngster in need. As a starting point, they volunteered to serve as mentors through Optimist Youth Homes & Family Services, where they were paired with Jude. That was in April of last year, and with each passing month the couple grew closer and closer to the teen and wanted to provide him with a stable, supportive, loving home. Due to Jude’s high behavioral needs, Chris and Morton needed to be trained in Intensive Treatment Foster Care (ITFC) before they could foster Jude.
Designed for youngsters with a history of foster placements along with serious emotional/behavioral challenges, ITFC serves as an alternative to high-level group homes or community treatment facilities and is a joint initiative of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, Children and Family Services, and several area foster-family agencies. Through ITFC, high-risk foster kids are placed with foster parents who will provide care for only this one youngster. In addition to completing a minimum of 18 hours of standard foster-parent training, ITFC parents must complete at least 22 additional hours of training to earn in-trauma informed care certification. ITFC utilizes a team approach that involves social workers, in-home support counselors, and therapists who are available around the clock. The overarching goal of the team and foster parents is to help the youngster replace problem behaviors with positive behaviors so that he or she can succeed at home, in school, and out in the greater community.
Chris and Morton turned to Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services to become ITFC certified. Since coming to live with Chris and Morton in Eagle Rock, Jude—according to his Hathaway-Sycamores’ care team—”is finally feeling seen and heard. He has built trust with his foster parents and truly perceives them as being there for him. There were some bumps in the road at the beginning, but because of the trust that has developed, Jude’s behaviors have settled down. He is now very open to growing, learning more about himself, and to keep improving.”