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Children with Higher Needs Need a Specialized Level of Foster Care

By Jeannie Imelio, Chief Operating Officer, Aspiranet

There are many reasons why children end up in the foster care system. Most if not all children in care have experienced trauma in the form of abuse and/or neglect further complicated by the separation from their birth family. Coping with past trauma and separation can be more challenging for some children, requiring more individualized and specialized care. Other children are stepping down in care from a residential (formerly called a “group home”) program and require a higher level of care and support.

For foster children with specialized medical needs, an additional level of care may be required. Foster families caring for a child with medical needs will receive specialized medical training so that they are prepared to support a child’s medical needs.

Foster families providing Intensive Services Foster Care (ISFC) work together with an interdisciplinary team to develop a plan that will provide the child with the services and supports the child needs. This group of professionals varies with each child, but can include social workers, support counselors, and others.

ISFC foster children thrive on the stability offered by a care provider who knows and understands their needs. The trauma of being in foster care is compounded by their additional issues.

ISFC foster families describe the experience as “the most intense and rewarding of our lives”. Being an ISFC parent has challenges. Children in care can have severe emotional, mental, and physical conditions. These can sometimes manifest in disruptive or even destructive behavior.

“These children are no less worthy of our love and care,” says Aspiranet Resource Family Director Diane Warne. “And we see time and time again that the kindness and willingness of our foster families helps these children thrive.”

ISFC foster families are often described as “professional parents”, people who have a background in childcare, child development, healthcare, and other avenues. One of the myths of ISFC families is that they must have this type of background. Anyone can become an ISFC family. An additional 12-hour training program is required, and greater flexibility is required for things like outside appointments.

Because of the heightened responsibilities associated with being an ISFC family, there are additional support services provided. The reimbursement rate for ISFC families is higher than traditional foster care since the expenses and time requirement is higher. ISFC families also receive increased social worker support, one-on-one support and coaching to the child and family from a support counselor, respite services when needed, as well as individualized additional services and supports.

There is no “ideal” ISFC family, although certain situations are more conducive to ISFC care. This is a great opportunity for a stay-at-home parent with child care skills or training, or a family with a flexible schedule. It’s also a prime opportunity for individuals who have retired from the education, healthcare, and law enforcement fields.

Aspiranet is a leader in training ISFC families and in placing ISFC youth in the homes best suited for their care. In addition to foster care and foster-adopt services, Aspiranet provides mental and behavioral health services, a residential (STRTP) location, help for young adults who are aging out of the foster care system, and support for new families. Aspiranet provides services at 33 community-based locations across California.

To become an ISFC family or to learn more about Aspiranet’s foster care and foster-adopt programs, visit or call 877.380.4376.

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