"Gratitude and Humility" for Therapeutic Foster Parents
Nicole McKelvey-Walsh is a 19-year veteran of the Department of Children and Families and a compassionate advocate for children and families. With close to 30 years' experience in the field, Nicole took oversight of the Department's Therapeutic Foster Care Program (TFC) in July of 2019. She saw some early successes in those beginning months, most notably the level of commitment that the 16 TFC agencies share of the overall vision of ensuing high quality clinical services.
Nicole’s long-term goal for TFC is to implement Evidenced Based Practices which are interventions proven to be effective after withstanding rigorous evaluation. This past week, The Children's Bureau has been talking about foster families as support to families, not as a substitute for parents. According to Nicole, “this concept resonated with me and is in keeping with our overall vision of a TFC redesign." When children enter foster care, they do not enter alone. They bring with them connections and relationships which must be nurtured and supported. Foster parents do not care for children in isolation, they care for them within the context of the child's larger family system. As Nicole stated, “when we bring foster parents and birth parents together, spectacular things can happen in the life of a child.” She shared a recent experience where a foster mom and birth mom worked together to celebrate a sweet 16 birthday. The two planned a birthday car parade to drive by the foster home, celebrating a big milestone together. This is a wonderful example of foster parents as a support to children and their extended families.
With May being National Foster Care Awareness Month, we find ourselves in a position to not only call attention to the foster care system but it is an opportunity for us to celebrate the foster parents who so selflessly give of their love and their time and commitment to the children who need them most.
In reflecting on the celebratory month, two words come to mind for Nicole, “gratitude and humility. During this global pandemic I have been humbled by the endless dedication of foster families.” Last week, one of our foster parents passed away from COVD 19 and the adult children of the parent stepped in and pulled the foster child in, even closer. Nicole said that “there was seemingly no difference between the foster child and everyone in the household who grieving. It’s a testament to the life and legacy of the foster parent that everyone is has equal family membership regardless of biological connection.
Nicole McKelvey-Walsh is the Clinical Program Director, Therapeutic Foster Care Program