by Blythe Pavlik, Morrison Child and Family Services
Kathi Gladson, tears up when she talks about her grandkids. Like all proud grandmothers, she gushes about their playfulness, laughter and how hard they work to keep up in school.
Her relationship with her grandkids is unique: they have come into her life through Morrison Child and Family Services’ Therapeutic Foster Care Program.
Gladson’s son, Joshua, and his wife, Kimberly, have been dedicated therapeutic foster parents with Morrison for five years. and she was so moved by their devotion to kids in need that she happily went through Morrison’s 32-hour therapeutic foster parent training so she too could have an active and influential role in her foster grandchildren’s lives.
Since 1947 Morrison Child and Family Services has delivered specialized services to children, ages 0-18, and families who are coping with abuse, neglect, domestic violence, drug and alcohol addiction, criminality, and other adversities.
Serving more than 6,000 kids and families each year, it’s is the largest and longest-running children’s mental health agency in Oregon.
Therapeutic Foster Care (TFC) has been employed by Morrison programs since 1984 and establishes safe and nurturing foster family environments for some of Oregon’s most vulnerable children.
In addition to a typical foster family setting, TFC provides therapeutic case management, skill building, and tailored services to aid kids and their foster families.
The goal of TFC is to be the last stop for kids before they transition to a long term placement, whether that is adoption or reunification with family; and to end the pattern of disruptive foster-home-to-foster-home placements.
Therapeutic foster homes offer a much-needed structured and intentional environment for kids working through trauma and adversity. Kids learn to safely express difficult feelings and how to establish healthy, meaningful relationships.
Over the years, Gladson’s son and daughter-in-law have welcomed children as young as five and as old as thirteen into their home; sometimes providing a home for two unrelated foster children at the same time. The goal is always the same: to give these kids an opportunity to heal, grow, and make lifelong connections with people who will love them unconditionally.
Family members go through training that Gladson referred to as “enlightening.” Prior to the TFC training, she didn’t understand the plight of foster kids.
“There is an exercise they have us do and it looks like a bull’s-eye – think about your life, think about the people who are in your inner circle. Then you go out a level and out another level until you are out with doctors and social workers and people like that. With foster kids… they have nobody. Nobody in that inner circle. And the only people on the whole bull’s-eye, for lack of a better word, are being paid to help him. And even they are on the periphery.”
With her hand on her heart and tears welling in her eyes, Gladson says becoming a TFC foster grandparent has been life affirming, humbling, and one of the most important things she has taken part in.
“I don’t know a greater way to make a difference in the world.”
Kids in Morrison’s program typically stay with foster families for about fourteen months and the average time foster parents tend to work with the program is just over five years.
Morrison has very dedicated foster families and one such family has worked with Morrison’s TFC program for 24 years.
Because of the trauma these kids have experienced, many have fallen behind in a variety of developmental ways. Foster families and the treatment team work collaboratively to stabilize a child emotionally, mentally, and behaviorally.
Letting go of foster kids when it is time for them to return to their biological family or an adoptive family can be difficult.
In those moments, Gladson chooses to reflect on the lasting and life-affirming influence she has had on the kids that have been her temporary grandchildren.
Serving as a foster grandmother has given Gladson the opportunity to change the course of another human life for the better – leaving a legacy and living a purpose-filled life.
“The most powerful thing I’ve seen is the resilience in these young people. What has most amazed me is watching a child come into Joshua and Kimberly’s home really guarded, usually not functioning very highly, and then to see, over time, a transformation.”
Currently, Morrison has a foster parent deficit – 25 children are on the waitlist. Families receive extensive training; support groups; a generous tax-free monthly stipend; and they benefit from a collaborative network. In addition to the program, Morrison has four population-specific foster care programs including programs to serve teenagers and youth in recovery.
To learn more about becoming a foster parent, contact Wendy Espitia at 503.278.1183 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. See www.morrisonkids.org or come for an information session September 23 at 1 pm at Hollywood Senior Center, 1820 NE 40th Ave,