Providing Stability and Care for Children of “the System”
JCFS System of Care provides an array of services to stabilize the placement of children who are wards of the state of Illinois and are living in foster homes, the home of a relative, or are stepping down from residential care.
The resources available through System of Care, or SOC, are critical for the emotionally and behaviorally disturbed infants, children and youth we serve. Our goal is to support children and their families by using a strength-based model of service: We step in to help wherever needed, working to achieve emotional and behavioral well-being and placement stability for children.
SOC generally provides services in clients’ current foster homes, reinforcing the comfort that they may have within their own communities. We strive to avoid placing children in more restrictive settings, such as group homes or residential treatment facilities.
Mapping how the SOC works with children
For most children receiving support from the System of Care, there are 10 posts that guide how an SOC Clinician works with the client.
- Intake and Consultation, which begins with a referral (SOC referral form) from a caseworker from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and leads to an SOC visit with the child and family in their home to finalize acceptance of the case.
- Assessment, which includes discussions with the client and family, and leads to the development of a written assessment and an SOC Care Plan.
- Team Meeting, which involves the child, his family and often other people important to the child (such as a teacher), and is a time to discuss the strengths of the client and the family, and the resources available to address their needs.
- Family Therapy, which is provided by Master’s level clinicians to help foster children transition to, and navigate within, different family systems toward forming healthier relationships. SOC uses the Child Parent Psychotherapy (CPP) model in working with children ages 0-6 years old, which means the focus is on the relationship between the infant, toddler or child, and his primary caregiver. The focus of treatment is to address trauma the child experienced that now interferes with the development of age-appropriate milestones.
- Individual Therapy, which is provided by Master’s level clinicians when clinically indicated. With small children and pre-teens, a mix of art and play therapy techniques may be used to facilitate expressed emotion and to “work through” previous trauma and/or current difficulties. With adolescents, SOC clinicians generally use “talk” therapy, yet remain flexible enough to allow for other methods. SOC clinicians literally meet their clients where they are, as most therapy is offered off-site. Therapeutic work through SOC can be done on a basketball court, in a car, or on a back porch. Most often, however, the foster home acts as the clients' therapy space.
- Collateral Therapeutic Interventions, which might include consultation with the child’s psychiatrist regarding the prescription and administration of medication; supporting the process of ensuring a child’s educational needs are being met within the school-setting; attending sibling visitation in an effort to improve sibling interactions; and, in general, collaborating with other professionals serving the child and family. An SOC clinician does not replace the caseworker, who is still responsible for all case management responsibilities, but clinicians do work collaboratively with the caseworker.
- Court, School and Community Advocacy, for which the SOC Clinician may be called upon to report about a client’s progress in services and functioning within the foster home.
- Linkage Services, which may be recommended by the SOC Clinician to provide additional support to, and stability for, the child and family, such as after-school programs, extra-curricular sports and summer camps. SOC has a small funding pool to assistant with the costs of these services.
- Crisis Intervention & Response, when an emergency arises with a client and family and an SOC on-call clinician or assigned clinician can help address that which may be threatening the emotional or physical health of the child.
- Respite Care, which can be offered by the SOC clinician based on the child’s and family’s needs for special opportunities to develop the child’s life and social skills, to allow foster parents a short break from parenting, to provide the child with a unique one-on-one mentoring relationship, and/or to introduce the child to new recreational and educational activities.
How to Access the System of Care
If you are interested in learning how the System of Care can support a child in your life, speak with the child’s caseworker, who will determine eligibility for the program. To be eligible, SOC clients must live in a relative placement, traditional foster home, or a DCFS foster home. SOC is also able to work with clients who are returning home from residential treatment settings to the homes of their parents. Eligibility also is determined by whether the child lives in our assigned Local Area Networks (LANs) of 37A, 40, 41, 63, 65 and half of LAN 67.
Once a child becomes an SOC client, service is generally provided to the child over a four-month time frame, and begins with assessments and a Child and Family Team meeting convened by the SOC Clinician. Other services may include individual therapy, family therapy, group therapy, 24-hour emergency response, crisis intervention, court/school/community advocacy, collateral therapeutic interventions, respite services, and linkage services.