Intensive Services Foster Care (ISFC) is a California State program model that allows foster children and youth with significant medical, therapeutic or behavioral needs to remain in a home setting for care. San Diego-based non-profit Walden Family Services has been chosen as one of the first agencies licensed to implement ISFC in Southern California.
Since 2001, Walden has worked with medically fragile children, placing them in foster and adoptive homes as an alternative to institutional or hospital settings—allowing them to experience the normal familial bonds and one-on-one care that a parent can give.
The new designation recognizes Walden’s strengths in identifying, recruiting, training, supporting, and supervising resource families with the resilience and knowledge to help our most vulnerable children. These parents must undergo rigorous child-specific training in order to care for their foster children, as individualized care protocols and nursing supervision become part of their daily lives. And they must be overseen by social work staff such as Walden’s, who’ve been trained and educated to high IFSC standards.
“We are very proud of the fact that Walden’s been a pioneer in the area of nurturing medically fragile children,” says Teresa Stivers, Walden Family Services’ CEO. “Children with special health care needs, along with LGBTQ youth and sibling groups, are often very hard to place. We’ve made it a priority to ensure these kids get the resources and love they need in order to develop and maintain healthy relationships going forward.”
Walden recruits families who are willing and able to take on the difficult task of caring for a child with a serious medical problem, ranging from life-threatening diseases such as HIV or leukemia, to failure-to-thrive or shaken baby syndrome, to complications of in utero drug exposure, to severe injury such as burns or broken bones. The children are often disabled and may require specialized medical equipment such as feeding tubes, apnea monitors, pacemakers, etc., and in most cases will need follow-up with many medical appointments. And it follows that children who have experienced significant trauma may exhibit behavioral issues that require therapy and parents who’ve been thoroughly educated and equipped to cope.
With reforms set in motion in California that emphasize home placements (as opposed to group home or institutional placements), Walden’s role as an ISFC-approved agency will become more vital. Walden is committed to its vision that every child has a loving family and the ability to realize their greatest potential—regardless of ability.