LSSI Chosen as Pilot Organization for Therapeutic Foster Care to Help Children with Severe Emotional/Behavioral Needs

After a competitive grant process, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI), the largest statewide provider of social services, was chosen by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) as a pilot organization for Therapeutic Foster Care. The pilot program is part of a DCFS initiative to place children with histories of severe trauma and emotional/behavioral needs into single-family homes rather than institutional settings or group homes.

Children in Therapeutic Foster Care need more intensive support and services. LSSI's Therapeutic Foster care services will comprise teams of dedicated, innovative, and highly trained clinicians, caseworkers, and specially trained foster parents. These teams will work with 10 children per region (one child per foster family), ages 6 to 14, during a six to nine month period using intensive treatment to help them develop the skills needed to thrive in their family and community. The teams, including foster parents, are being coordinated at LSSI offices in each of the state’s identified areas of highest need—Chicago, Rockford, and Aurora. Initially, the program will care for a combined 30 children. LSSI currently is recruiting therapeutic foster care parents.

LSSI will be using a Therapeutic Foster Care model called Treatment Foster Care of Oregon (TFCO), a highly effective, evidence-based treatment model. The Treatment Foster Care of Oregon model was developed in the early 80s as an alternative to institutional, residential, and group care placements for adolescents with severe conduct disorders and delinquency. The TFCO program has been highly effective at reducing problem behavior, increasing school success, strengthening attachment to caregivers, and improving foster parent satisfaction.

LSSI believes that the early screening and identification of children with severe trauma histories and emotional/behavioral needs coupled with the Treatment Foster Care of Oregon model creates the opportunity for children to successfully live in a family rather than a more restrictive level of care.

"With our Therapeutic Foster Care Program, LSSI hopes to intervene earlier, and help families develop the tools and skills needed for the child in the home," said Ruth Jajko, LSSI's Vice President of Children’s Community Services. "We chose Treatment Foster Care Oregon because it is a strong, evidence-based model that focuses on a team approach."

LSSI's Therapeutic Foster Care program uses the positive potential of families, both the professional foster families who are the key advocates, and the biological or adoptive families who will meet the child's needs in a positive and permanent home and sustain success over time.

"We are excited to work alongside LSSI to implement Treatment Foster Care Oregon in Aurora, Chicago, and Rockford," said John Aarons, President of TFC Consultants. "The purpose of this partnership is to create opportunities so that youth can successfully live in homes, gaining the skills they need to succeed in school, with peers, and in the community. This intensive treatment foster care model works with youth placed in highly trained foster homes, their families, and relatives simultaneously to support new skills and positive changes."

LSSI's Therapeutic Foster Care includes behavioral parent training and support for foster parents, family therapy for biological parents and relatives, skills training and supportive therapy for youth, and school-based behavioral interventions and academic support.

To learn more about the program or to apply to become a Professional TFCO Foster Parent, please contact the following team leaders in each region:

  • Aurora: Christina Naujokas, (630) 896-2714, ext. 12
  • Chicago: Pauline Barlow, (312) 949-4843
  • Rockford: Kirsten Ahlberg, (815) 969-8836, ext. 5143

About Lutheran Social Services of Illinois

Serving Illinois since 1867, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI) is a nonprofit social service organization of the three Illinois synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). LSSI is the largest statewide social service provider, serving nearly 70,000 people across Illinois last year. The organization provides critical programs for Illinois residents including foster care, early childhood education, mental health services, alcohol and drug treatment, affordable senior housing, residential programs for people with developmental disabilities, and programs that help formerly incarcerated individuals integrate back into society.


Barb Hailey