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Foster a Future, Further Your Love

Released 13 May 2013

Children's Services

For more than 20 years, Florence Rhue has dedicated her career to finding support and care for orphaned children in the southeastern Pennsylvania region while demystifying the adoption process through education. Now the director of The Salvation Army Children's Services , Rhue helps to provide foster care, mentorship, and adoption services to children ranging from infants to 18-year-olds. The Salvation Army is a licensed private adoption program and works in conjunction with the Statewide Adoption Network (SWAN) and County Children and Youth Agencies.

In honor of National Foster Care Month, the program celebrated the cause through the Second Annual Rock N' Run 4 Kids on Saturday, May 11. The event was organized by The Salvation Army on behalf of the children served by The Salvation Army Children's Services annually and the 14,000 children currently living in the Pennsylvania foster care system who are in need of love and support to thrive and grow.

Rhue notes that The Salvation Army Adoption and Foster Care Program has seen continued growth over the years, even adding on services like its successful Teen Spirit Program for children who have aged out of the system. "Even as it grows, we are able to stay very closely involved with each child and family that we work with," said Rhue.

The most recent growth opportunity for the program is its newly launched Visit Coaching Program, an initiative to support the bonding of families and children in the foster care system. The program, based on research by Dr. Marty Beyer and funded by a three year grant, has been shown to speed the reunification of families through what is often a stressful process.

Visit Coaching is designed to help parents learn and respond to the unique developmental needs of their children in a supportive and comfortable environment. Before each visit, parents meet with Visit Coach Robyn Hubbard to talk about the needs of each child and address issues that brought them into foster care. These planning sessions empower parents to be active and hands-on.

Visits take place in the specially designed "family room" at The Salvation Army, which welcomes families with warm paint colors, comfortable new furniture, and shelves stocked with books, toys, and creative art supplies.

"This beautiful place has truly been prepared with the restoration of families in mind," said Hubbard.

After each visit, parents are given time to reflect and evaluate, empowering them to be attentive and child-focused parents. They leave feeling confident and capable, and more motivated and hopeful for the future.

The Visit Coaching Program is designed to be creative and flexible to meet each family's unique needs. Some family visits may even take place in the community at libraries and parks. Hubbard has also been able to adapt the Visit Coaching Program for parents who are incarcerated, providing pre-visit planning, therapeutic attachment activities, and post-visit evaluations in the prison. The program is already in talks of expanding beyond The Salvation Army's program in the years to come.

The Salvation Army Foster Care Program was instituted in 1991, serving Bucks, Montgomery, and Delaware counties. Six years later in 1997, the Adoption Program was added to The Salvation Army's services as new legislature allowed children in foster care to become available for adoption at a quicker rate. This was an exciting development for Rhue, who could focus on placing children in permanent homes.

Today, services have expanded to a second office in the Lehigh Valley and the program is able to serve more than 50 children per year. Part of those services include providing regular foster care to children as Salvation Army staff work to identify a permanent living situation, in addition to respite care and legal risk care for foster children. Services are provided in a holistic manner promoting the safety and well-being of children, while responding to the diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds of the children and families served.

"Permanency is an extremely important thing for kids, and The Salvation Army strives for it and chooses its foster families very carefully," said Rhue.

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