For Ranch Ehrlo Treatment Foster Care (TFC) parents Noël and Tony Matchett, there is no experience like that of being part of this unique program. And it is hard to say goodbye to it.
TFC is a dynamic family-based program for children whose needs require intensive care and treatment outside of their own homes. The program provides homes to children, ages 6 to 15, who require a more intensive level of care than traditional foster care, but less restrictive than residential treatment. The program is not designed to provide long-term foster service and promotes family reunification whenever possible.
Noël and Tony Matchett
For a year, Noël and Tony, who have three biological children of their own, fostered an 11-year-old boy with complex medical needs. To begin with, there were many hurdles to overcome.
"When you have an established home life with a pecking order between the kids, throwing in an older child disrupts the balance of things," Tony explained. "The equilibrium is off in the beginning."
But the Matchetts – including their children – adjusted, and Noël and Tony credit the program for teaching their biological children things that can't be learned anywhere else.
"I think having a kid come into your home puts to test the kind of things you tried to instill in your children," Noël added. "One of the things we instilled is that we do everything as a family so to see them jump right into learning about diabetes, and carb counting and reading labels was cute."
The program's resources and supports – including manager Lisa Neill and the caseworkers – as well as the close-knit relationship with other families in the TFC, were extremely helpful for Noël and Tony.
"The program has that family feel. The (staff) know my kids better than some people in my family because they come into your home once a week. They see them day in and day out. You get close to them, closer then a co-worker," Noël said. "They also notice behaviours, offer suggestions of where it may be coming from, and give suggestions to try and implement solutions."
Throughout the course of the year, Noël and Tony saw the youth they fostered grow in many ways.
"Being able to watch him go through a blow out, or something hard that a typical 11-year-old shouldn't have to do, and come through it and be able to say, ‘yeah, that sucked', or ‘sorry I did that' – coming full circle through that is nice," Tony said.
As Noël and Tony prepare to move to BC, they are looking into other fostering options in their new home, but they recognize that it will be a different experience than that of the Ranch's Treatment Foster Care program.
"The TFC was definitely the hardest thing we've ever had to leave," Tony said.
"There is nothing like this program," said Noël. "If you feel called to fostering, there is nothing like doing it with other people that are just as called to do it. You really want to be a part of an organization where everyone is all in. I feel like that is what the Ranch is, people who have dedicated their careers, in and out to helping these kids."
"Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, Ranch Ehrlo is the best place. So far it's hard to find anything that even comes close," Tony concluded.
If you are interested in being a foster treatment parent, apply here.