AP NEWS

PATH North Dakota still servicing families after 25 years

April 22, 2019

MINOT, N.D. (AP) — PATH North Dakota has one simple goal: to make a difference in families and youth in North Dakota. They do this through their foster care, adoption, independent living and family service programs.

PATH is a private, nonprofit child and family services agency that began in 1994 in North Dakota. They offer various services with a big focus on foster care and providing children in need with a safe, nurturing environment when their parents may not be able to care for them, the Minot Daily News reported.

PATH offers different types of foster care, the largest being their Treatment Foster Care. A large number of children in foster care are treatment level and Treatment Foster Care homes focus on the children in their care’s healing, safety and success with in-depth training to prepare them.

To help their services, PATH has a growing focus on Trauma Informed Care, which focuses on what happened to the child that has led to their behavior. This focus helps Treatment Foster Care better prepare to help children in their care.

“When I went through trauma informed care, that actual training was just mind blowing because you’re dealing day to day with the behaviors,” said PATH foster parent Rachel Allison. “The behaviors aren’t the kid, but the behaviors are the bread crumb trails of trying to understand their perspective and what to do you to get your arms around that and restructure that into a more positive direction.”

Allison and her husband became foster parents after her brother-in-law and sister-in-law adopted through AASK — Adults Adopting Special Kids. She did a Google search on foster care and quickly found PATH.

“My husband and I were finally at that ‘pull the trigger’ moment to do it and PATH was the first phone number that came up and I called. I can’t tell you how lucky I was with a simple search engine,” Allison explained.

Despite PATH being around for 25 years, not many people know about it and the services it provides. Those that do oftentimes think Path is for the “hard kids, the naughty kids and the really high-needs kids,” according to Becky Edwards of PATH.

“You wouldn’t be able to pick these kiddos out of a lineup. They look just like every other kid,” Edwards said.

Allison said that many people are shocked that she does PATH and say she’s such a good person for doing it. To her though, there is nothing special or unique about her husband and her. They are normal people who make mistakes. They just decided to help children in need.

“All it really comes down to is making a commitment one kid at a time,” Allison explained. “A lot of people think you have to have this magical, special ability, and as long as you go into it with a good heart and their needs being first and foremost in your decision making, you have people around that will support.”

Allison said that one of the most common things people ask her is how she can say goodbye to the children who enter her home. Her response is always that you aren’t focused on the goodbye and instead focused on the today.

“Today we’re going to do everything we can to set them up for success. You make the difference in whatever time your given,” Allison said.

PATH Treatment Foster Care has 24-hour on call support from their assigned licensed social worker, monthly support meetings with other foster parents, relief care and ongoing training for all levels of PATH from employees to social workers to foster parents.

“It’s just such a supportive environment. It’s an environment that you can admit mistakes, ask for help and it’s great,” Allison explained.

PATH focuses on all parts of the care system from the children to their parents to the foster parents to the employees of their offices. For them, by meeting the needs of every level of the process, they can better meet the needs of the children.

“It’s going to be a well-rounded agency, which is the goal,” Edwards said.

Allison said, “The amount of support I’ve gotten, the amount of training I’ve gotten, it’s more like a family than anything else. Everyone knows what’s going on and it’s just so nice to feel so well supported. I feel like a better foster parent because of it all.”

Edwards is in charge of licensing new foster homes when they decide to join. The process, she says, is self-paced and works to prepare the families before they receive their first child or children.

“I work with people at their pace. It’s a series of appointments with me. We give them the training that they need. We do provide more training than a lot of agencies because we believe it helps them prepare,” Edwards said.

According to Edwards, PATH is in need of more Treatment Foster Care homes. They are in desperate need of foster parents, according to Edwards, and especially for people who will take teenagers.

Edwards said there are a variety of reasons for why homes might not want teenagers. Many believe that teens come with more issues, something Edwards says is far from true because young children have a lot of things to work through too when placed in Treatment Foster Care.

“Children can’t express their emotions yet developmentally. Whereas the teenagers can. They have that ability to communicate a little more effectively,” said Allison, who currently has younger children placed with her.

Anybody can become a foster parent as long as they are over the age of 21, have a steady income and a stable home environment and willing to learn and do the training. “Anybody can do it, whether it’s a single parent, somebody who’s never been a parent or someone who works full time. Anyone, if you have that will to do it, can do it,” said Tanya Hennix, Independent Living and Recruitment Coordinator of PATH.

For anyone interested or curious about becoming a foster parent through PATH, Edwards said they’re going to get a lot of education to better prepare them alongside their constant support and are going to be a part of a very close knit PATH family.

There are other ways to help support PATH and their mission to help the families and children in North Dakota through their services. Edwards invites anyone to come and visit with her, whether to become a foster parent or to find another way they can be involved.

“If they just want to come around and visit with me, I’m around or just give me a ring and I will absolutely find something that can help,” Edwards said.

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Information from: Minot Daily News, http://www.minotdailynews.com