Therapeutic or Traditional Foster Care – Which is Right for You?

Are you considering becoming a foster parent?

When you begin to research this role, you’ll undoubtedly notice the distinction between therapeutic and traditional foster care. At Benchmark Family Services, we specialize in the former.

Here, our experts will explain the differences between the two and help you establish which type is right for you.


What is traditional foster care?

Children are placed with foster caregivers for a range of reasons. Often, these relate to a history of abuse or neglect that in some way may be causing trauma to the child. However, this doesn’t mean that every child experiences the same degree of trauma. 

Children can be very resilient in the face of adversity, but every child processes difficulties in different ways. Traditional foster care is for children whose needs do not necessarily require more intense or specialized forms of support.

When you foster a child through traditional foster care agencies, you may find that the goal is often for them to eventually reunite with their original family when possible.

Most children in foster care are in traditional foster care placements.


What makes therapeutic foster care different? 

When children have specific or complex support needs that cannot be met in their own homes but can be served in the community, they are placed in therapeutic foster care. These children are not only traumatized by this lack of support, but they may be re-traumatized in the removal from their homes even as it is for their own safety.  Children suffering from trauma will express emotional, behavioral, social, or medical issues–all of which are calls for help.

A child can be placed in traditional foster care but begins expressing issues that hinder their ability to thrive in a standard level of care and is subsequently placed in therapeutic care.. Other times, a child is placed directly into therapeutic care as they are already expressing the need for higher care at the time of removal from their home.

Agencies that focus on therapeutic foster care, like Benchmark Family Services, aim to carefully match children with capable caregivers who are unwavering and willing to meet their unique needs.  These agencies are aware the more often a child is moved, the greater the potential for re-traumatization.

Children in therapeutic foster care are especially in need of the resilience, safety and comfort that a stable home environment can bring.


What do I need to be a therapeutic foster caregiver?

The first thing you need to be a therapeutic foster caregiver is the right agency. Look for a therapeutic agency like Benchmark Family Services that provides specialized, comprehensive training and daily 24-hour support to their caregivers.

If you’re worried about the financial implications of caring for a child with higher needs, remember that you may receive a higher subsidy for the child.  Although Benchmark pays premium rates to cover the costs of therapeutic care, not all agencies do.  Some agencies pay flat rate regardless of the additional care needed. 

On a personal level, being a foster caregiver of any kind brings its own challenges. To overcome them, patience, resilience and persistence are required.

In the case of therapeutic foster caring, caregivers should also have a determined intent to help heal some of society’s most vulnerable children. They should be willing to learn about the children they foster and the flexible paths necessary for their wellness and recovery.  Most of all, they should be prepared to partner with the agency and never give up. 


What support can I access as a therapeutic foster caregiver? 


When you foster a child through a therapeutic agency like Benchmark Family Services, for a start, you receive comprehensive training both before a child is placed in your home and throughout your tenure with the agency.

After a child is placed in your home, you receive intensive case management in which the agency provides enhanced support and visits to help better the child’s adjustment to the new home and to assist in the adherence to the child’s treatment plan for a successful outcome.


You will also be part of a coordinated treatment team consisting of medical and/or behavioral health professionals and other licensed therapeutic practitioners in the community who will provide services according to the child’s needs.


The agencies pay you scheduled reimbursements, commonly called per diem, to be used for the care of the child.  Because a child in a therapeutic home requires higher care, as a therapeutic foster parent you may qualify for higher reimbursements. 


Some agencies offer daily 24-hour access to their support specialists—a popular component Benchmark’s foster parents find indispensable.  This support allows the agency to always be within reach of a simple phone call.


If you’re interested in becoming a therapeutic foster parent, contact Benchmark Family Services in Indiana, Kentucky and Western Pennsylvania for more information.