DULUTH, MN– Duluth has established the first program north of the Twin Cities to address mental health issues in the foster care system.
Officials said more than 800 St. Louis County youth are in foster care.
“A kid will go into foster care and the experience itself is good, but there’s still some need out there. And then they go out of foster care and it’s pretty common for kids to go back into foster care,” said Christine Squier, outpatient clinical supervisor.
That’s why Cambia Hills Mental Health outpatient program in Woodland Hills is bringing a program called Intensive Treatment in Foster Care to Duluth to stop the revolving door.
“What makes this kid tick? What’s helpful? What’s not helpful? Helping them regulate themselves better. Helping them kind of be a part of the process,” said Squier.
Foster children can receive mental health services in their foster homes rather than in clinics, or other unfamiliar settings.
“Being able to have that more organic relationship rather than this artificial office, I’m really excited for that piece,” she said.
The “intensive” part of the ITFC name refers to the serious, thorough nature of the treatment.
ITFC includes psychotherapy, psychoeducational services, crisis assistance, and more for at least six hours each week.
“How it benefits the kid is they really need to talk to one person, rather than all these people who have their own interpretation on what they’re saying,” she said.
Sessions include not only the foster child and counselor but also the child’s foster parents, and sometimes biological parents, or whoever the child will be living with after foster care to ensure communication stays open.
“Services really function at their highest when everybody knows what’s going on, and everyone can adapt as needed,” said Squier.
Plus, one therapist can work with up to four children at a time.
“This is a luxury in the mental health field of being able to really become the expert in this kid’s case,” she said.
Officials said this is a great step forward for Duluth.
“We are all one community and so the more that we can work together, the more that we can communicate together, the more that we can figure out what needs aren’t being met, and how can we get those needs met,” said Squier.
To be eligible for the program, a child must:
-Be a recipient of the Minnesota Health Care Program
-Be 21-years-old or younger
-Have a diagnostic assessment within the past 180 days that documents a mental illness
-Live in a licensed family foster home
-Need a level of care that demonstrates the need for intensive services without 24-hour medical monitoring