What is Therapeutic Foster Care?

Therapeutic foster care is for kids in foster care who have challenging behaviors due to the difficult life experiences they have had to overcome. These kids tend to need more support than what traditional foster care offers.

Behaviorally challenging kids are poorly understood.They are too often still being treated in ways that are adversarial, reactive, punitive, and counterproductive.We believe in the ability to improve behavioral challenges collaboratively rather than coercively.  

Youth with complex trauma have brains set up for survival. But brains are changeable. Practicing and learning skills repeatedly can actually alter the physical structure of the brain, creating new neuronal pathways.

We believe the work and care starts by viewing these children and youth differently. They are regular kids who have had irregular things happen to them. The effects of these ‘irregular things’ (e.g. abuse and/or neglect in family of origin) may cause them to lag behind in cognitive domains that can affect their behavior.

What is the Therapeutic Foster Network (TFN)?

Therapeutic Foster Network is a therapeutic foster care program at Youthnet.  TFN offers comprehensive support and services to the foster child and the foster home exceeding what is available in traditional foster care.  

TFN’s ultimate goal is to increase capacity for therapeutic foster placements within our local communities.  

It is not widely known that many local foster youth with behavioral challenges spend several nights in hotels or are forced to move out of their communities of origin to programs outside of Washington State.  In most instances this happens because of the lack of foster homes with caregivers who are well-educated in trauma and behavior.  

The foundation for well-being is physical and emotional safety. Unplanned moves within foster care add to the complexity of trauma and increase the likelihood for additional challenges to overcome.  TFN is dedicated to not move youth due to behavior related to the traumas they have endured.

A vast majority of trauma happens within relationships, so it takes new healthy relationships to promote healing. We can never predict which relationship might be the catalyst that sets a person on the path to healing. We help heal people when we promote connections to positive people and our communities.

We know if we do not care for these children and youth appropriately now, they move into homelessness, into our juvenile justice and other public care systems as adults. It becomes more expensive to take care of them down the road.

However, rather than focusing on the statistics, we want people to consider the plight of the individual children.  These kids need people who are willing to take the time to understand them, to walk the difficult path with them.

How to Get Involved

We are looking for people interested in learning about the urgent need to increase therapeutic foster care placements within their community and how they can help.

If you are of the belief that communities should take care of some of its most vulnerable youth and are interested in helping, please contact Jon Rylaarsdam at or 360-336-1610 ext. 219.

If you are interested in becoming a licensed parent, have an extra bedroom in your home, and live in Skagit, Whatcom, Snohomish, or Island County– fantastic! There’s a big need. We would love to meet you. Again, please email or call.

Becoming a respite provider is a great introduction to therapeutic foster care. You gain fostering experience and get to know this population in a personal way.

Similarly, another way to become familiar with therapeutic foster care is to start off by providing traditional foster care. We do that too! Gaining foster care experience and learning more about trauma and behaviors with foster kids with fewer behaviors can be a good way to start.

TFN staff and foster parents recognize that lack of connection to positive people and community is a barrier for success and well-being for the youth we serve.  TFN continues to develop ways for community members to become involved, outside of becoming a licensed foster parent, as a Community Connector or Professional Connector.

Join the cause.  Plug into our network!

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