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Fostering Interconnection Through Therapy

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Scaffolding Hope

By: Lina Fancy, MSc., AMFT  |  April 18, 2024

After working in Neurodiversity for over 20 years, I shifted gears and sought experience in Trauma as I was completing my MFT. I was fortunate enough to be connected to the Marin Foster Care Association as they were launching a therapy program for those involved in their community. Admittedly, this was not a community that I was familiar with, however the more I learned about foster children in Marin, the systems in place and the families who step up to support, nurture and provide for those that are the most vulnerable among us, I could not help but be drawn to the work.

Fostering Interconnection Through Therapy (FITT) was spearheaded by Dr. Sara Edrington, a clinical psychologist who has had over twenty years of experience within the foster care system. Pairing this program with the Marin Foster Care Association (MFCA) was symbiotic, since Executive Director, Ashley Hurd had grown MFCA to be Marin County’s “primary provider of foster care support services focusing on turning a period of profound crisis in a child’s life into a time of security and healing.”

To be clear, the goal is always reunification. Children and Family Services in Marin County provides diligent support, services, and resources to guarantee that families going through crisis are allowed the opportunity to return to stabilization, while ensuring that minors are provided a safe and secure environment to develop and thrive. However, when stability is compromised, it is imperative that children are emotionally and physically kept safe. It is in these instances that the foster care community becomes a necessary component of a child’s life. It is important to note that Marin Health and Human Services currently reports that there are upwards of 80 foster children in Marin, with less than 50 registered resource families (previously known as foster families). This means that many of our Marin children are sent to families outside of the county. One can only imagine the impact of not only a child being taken away from their home and family, but also the stress of leaving their friends, schools, and communities. This only exacerbates the trauma many of them have already experienced in their young lives.

This process is very complex. Social workers admirably navigate the tightrope between a child’s biological family and a new resource family, with all the legalities, emotional lability and grief that is not only expected, but normative. State-provided resources are established, however caseloads are large, and resources are stretched. Existing attention is prioritized towards biological families, and they should be. However, where does this leave resource families who open their doors, lives and hearts to children who are in such need? FITT chose to develop a program to target this area of support in hopes of reducing the number of Marin children who need to be sent away to be kept safe. The hope is that with more transitional, emotional, and targeted support, more resource families will step up to provide their life and home as a safe haven for a child in need.

Since the state provides therapy for foster children, FITT began by providing therapy for resource families that spans working with individuals, couples, the family unit, or providing therapeutic support for biological children in the resource home. This is a significant transition for all involved, and trauma has a rippling impact. One thing that I can attest to after working with FITT clients for almost two years, is that whether you experience trauma directly or experience it through someone else, the impact of that trauma needs to be processed. Most people have experienced some trauma, and the exposure to identified stressors can be retriggering. This makes the heroic task of providing love, caretaking, and safety to a child even more complex.

Since its inception, and thanks to donors, FITT has been able to develop and grow programming, accessibility, and outreach. What started out as therapy drop-ins has turned into direct therapy for 60% of resource families in Marin, in addition to weekly support groups, bi-weekly parent trainings, and opportunities for resource families to access Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) for trauma. FITT also plans to double the number of therapists to provide free services during pivotal and transitional junctures in a child’s life. The ability to support the transition process between biological and resource parents can provide essential information so the experience can be easier to navigate and less traumatic for all involved, including adoption if that is the result. Subsequently, foster children over the age of 18 who are aging out of the program and starting their life as a young adult can lean into therapeutic support as they launch. We continue to be in awe of those who keep space in their hearts for those in need within our community. We are thankful for being able to provide needed support for those in times of crisis, and understand that truly, it takes a village.

Lina Fancy first began her career working in autism and developmental disabilities. Years of developmental behavior training and experience evolved into best practice via 1:1 direct intervention, parent training, navigating educational placement and services, and clinical quarterbacking. Lina went on to develop and grow the parent coaching program Jumpstart at the Autism Center of Northern California, where she was the Director for 12 years.  She is currently Director of LF Autism in Marin County. 

After 20 years in child development, she was compelled to complete her MFT at Dominican University with hopes to incorporate psychotherapeutic support for couples, siblings, and those navigating critical developmental journeys as they raise their children. Through that process, she began to see the similarities between early trauma, and developmental challenges and wanted to gain more insight by joining FITT as an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist providing trauma-informed psychotherapy supervised by Dr. Sara Edrington. Most recently she has completed training in EMDR and has recently stepped up as Director of FITT.  Whether developmental crisis or trauma responses, she recognizes that safety is the primary objective which can lead to regulation and growth. 

More from this issue:

A Letter to Zoey HERE >> 

Fostering Interconnection Through Therapy HERE >> 

SMMC Nonprofit Partner Spotlight: Marin Foster Care Association HERE >> 

Staying Organized Amidst the Chaos HERE >> 

Take Heart! HERE >>