Parenting is a challenge under the best of circumstances, and some parents need a little extra help. When Allegheny County Children, Youth and Family Services (CYF) put out the request for assistance in working with families in need, Cayuga Centers answered.
“With 20 years of continued success as a provider of treatment foster care throughout each of our Treatment Family Foster Care (TFFC) programs across the nation, Cayuga Centers was ready to answer the call,” said L’Tesha Gamble-Pettis, manager of Pennsylvania Treatment Family Foster Care. “The goal of coming to Allegheny County is to replicate the success that we’ve had with TFFC in other regions and to positively impact at-risk children and families in Allegheny County.”
Cayuga Centers is a nationally accredited and awarded 501 ©(3) nonprofit human services agency headquartered in Auburn, NY. Although they have a presence in Pennsylvania, they are new to this region. In late December, Cayuga Centers received their licensing from the Department of Public Welfare to begin providing foster care in Allegheny County.
“We will work with children from higher needs families—those who have gone through trauma, have a placement history, who have life circumstance that need extra attention,” Gamble-Pettis said. “The Cayuga Centers’ model is perfect for serving these families.”
Cayuga Centers provides an evidence-based therapeutic foster care program for youth ages 0 through 21 years of age who have specialized needs and require behavioral support. Working closely with foster families before and during placement, Cayuga Centers works to ensure that both the children and families have the services and skills that they need to succeed.
According to Gamble-Pettis, Cayuga Centers specializes in providing individualized, culturally appropriate, and trauma-informed support to diverse populations. As such, they will be providing Treatment Family Foster Care, a research-informed, multi-tiered team approach to rebuilding family relationships. “In the program, foster youth receive a safe home, medical care, counseling, case management and educational services,” she said.
Cayuga Centers is seeking foster parents with a willingness to open their homes to children in need. “They do not have to have prior experience, just a desire to be there for the children,” Gamble-Pettis said.
The families are certified, trained, and licensed prior to placement, but the support services do not stop there. “Our work with the families is ongoing; our team focuses on unifying the children with their birth family as quickly and safely as possible,” Gamble-Pettis said.
Stacee Shannon, foster placement recruiter, said they prefer families who are located in the same neighborhood area as the foster children in order to better ensure a smooth transition back home to birth families. “We want families who are not only supportive, but open to working with a team and willing to participate in therapy with the children and their families,” she said.
Targeted areas currently include Northside, Penn Hills, Homewood, Southside, McKeesport and the Hill District.
“The ages we expect to see most often are 8 to 12 years of age, but we have children both younger and older,” Shannon said.
While Cayuga Centers does have a vetting process and specific neighborhood needs, potential foster families shouldn’t shy away from applying. “We provide the training and tools needed to ensure success. And it certainly doesn’t stop at the certification process,” said Gamble-Pettis. “We are there every step of the way. We are committed to the success of all youth and welcome teens with multiple prior placements, sibling sets, and LGBTQIA+ youth.”
Moving forward, Cayuga Centers’ goal is to have at least 20 families and placements in the near future. But there are no limitations on the numbers of children that they hope to assist.
“We are invested in our families and children,” Gamble-Pettis said.
For more information, visit www.cayugacenters.org/pittsburgh-foster-care. Interested foster parents should review the eligibility checklist and email firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out the foster parent interest form online.