Hearts & Homes Annual Charity Golf Tournament is right around the corner! Help us raise money for our programs by purchasing a sponsorship, sponsoring a team, or playing in our tournament. We’re looking forward to a fun filled day of golf, networking, contests, games and prizes for all skill levels. Contact Valerie Snogren –  for more info or visit our website at See you on the green!

We love our volunteers!

We were privileged to have this group of folks from Transwestern, including HHY Board Member Joe McCormick, come to our Avis Birely Home to paint and work in the yard. It was fun working with them, and we greatly appreciate their hard work!


The Emerging Class of Leadership Montgomery visited our Helen Smith Home to paint. They had a good time making the house look more beautiful and talking with the girls. We’re thankful for their help!

HHY is pleased to partner with Dominique Hinton of Children’s Birthday Miracles. They’re providing monthly birthday parties for our youth. The first party was held at a bowling alley and was a huge success!

Many thanks to volunteer, Nikki Abban! She recently moved here from New York City after working in the documentary film industry there. She’s providing workshops for our girls . We’re excited for them to have this artistic experience, and we’re looking forward to seeing what they create!

In Memory

It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of one of our cherished founders, Judge John C. Tracey. If not for him and his passion, we would not have served over 41,000 young people since 1964. He will always be remembered in our hearts and in our homes.


Employee of the Month

Congratulations to Senior Counselor, Vanessa Johnson, for being our Employee of the Month! Vanessa runs a tight ship at our John C. Tracey home. She has tremendous rapport with the girls in the program, and they love her home cooking! The house is always in tip-top shape because Vanessa gets the job done, and makes sure the girls have everything they need.

How attachment patterns impact brain development

While working with children in the foster care system, it is important to have an understanding of their behavior.  A lot of the behaviors that young people present are telling of the home life they had prior to being placed in care.

Since the 1960’s, there has been a lot of research on the theory of attachment, and how attachment patterns impact brain development.  For example, if a child has a caregiver that is consistent in meeting their needs, the child is more likely to be able to regulate their emotions and be generally stress-free and safe. This is called a “secure attachment.” However, if a child experiences abuse or neglect from a caregiver, the child is then more likely to be stressed out and fearful, because their needs are not being met.  This can be an “avoidant attachment” or “resistant/ambivalent attachment,” and in some cases, a “disorganized attachment.”

As many people can relate, not just children, whenever people become stressed out, to the point of being afraid, a number of physiological symptoms occur.  The person may sweat a lot, heart rate increases, and the need to act, whether fight, flight, or freeze, is activated, particularly in high stress situations.  This is a helpful biological survival tool for people who have normal brain development, however, for children who are always in that heightened state of arousal, those constant responses can be quite damaging to the brain.

The excessive rise of cortisol levels can impact the development of the frontal lobe.  The constant inability of the caregiver to provide the child with safety and ways to get their needs met can impact the Amygdala, or the part of the brain that converts long and short term memories.  Because the brain is a social organ, nurturing through healthy and responsive care giving will help regulate the brain and help the child form a secure attachment. Here are five ways to develop a bond with your adopted or biological child:

  1. Play and do activities together – children love to play and it develops their abilities and social skills. Engage in activities that you are interested in as well as activities they are interested in.
  2. Create routines – routines and structure give youth a sense of control and help them develop their sense of trust.
  3. Be flexible – make sure to be flexible to keep life interesting for kids and to empower them to use their voice and let you know what they are interested in doing.
  4. Be consistent and dependable – it is critically important that a young person knows they can rely on you and that you provide a safe and stable environment.
  5. Read – read to little kids and share one of your favorite books with an older kid to discuss later.

What sets Hearts and Homes Therapeutic Foster Care Program apart, what makes us different?

Our Parents! We truly believe that Hearts and Homes for Youth has some of the best foster parents you can find. Many of our parents are veterans, individuals who are in it for the long haul, and are not willing to give up with things get tough! Their individual years of service range from three years to thirty years! Foster parents open their homes, adjust their lives, and put their needs second to the needs of their children. There is not enough we can do to thank them! Each year we host a Foster Parent Appreciation Dinner to convey this message to our parents. This year we had a lot of fun! Our foster parents enjoyed the entertainment, their meal with steak and lobster options, and special tributes to each parent! The dinner was hosted in private dining room, allowing our parents to let loose and enjoy themselves with us and each other. They danced, laughed, and were able to have a child free adult only evening! We were able to capture some memories at the photo booth, check them out!

An awesome dinner with DMV CYA!

We thank our friends from the DC, Maryland, and Virginia Christian Young Adult Organization (DMV CYA). They brought dinner to the young men in our Avis Birely Therapeutic Group Home. This service was in honor of their founder, Siafa Lavala’s birthday. He was devoted to children by mentoring and uplifting them whenever he could. Dinner included yummy chicken wings, mac & cheese, green beans, and cupcakes for dessert. After dinner everyone walked to the local park where they played a few games of basketball. Back at the program they presented our guys with goodie bags filled with personal care items. We are excited to welcome them back again sometime this summer.

Another successful year for Hearts & Homes on the Green!

Hearts & Homes on the Green was held at Argyle Country Club on May 15. We were excited to welcome 100 golfers. The day started with registration, a continental breakfast, and a Bloody Mary Bar complete with vodka donated by Tito’s. The golfers had a shotgun start at 10am. Drinks and a box lunch were provided on the course. The day ended with appetizers in the ballroom, an awards ceremony, and silent auction items to bid on. The foursome from Right at Home, headed up by our own board member, Lew Myers, won the event. Stay tuned for info about next year’s tournament. To view photos click here!


5 Things You Should Know About TFC

TFC is an acronym for Therapeutic Foster Care. TFC involves placing foster youth with severe mental, emotional, or behavioral health needs in a home with clinically trained foster parents. Here are some other things you should know about TFC:


  1. Kids in TFC, versus regular foster care, are more likely to have been exposed to more adverse experience. This is important for prospective foster parents to understand why TFC youth need a higher level of care.
  2. TFC usually involves more in-depth training for foster parents on neurobiology, the brain, and attachment styles.
  3. Exposure to abuse, neglect, and trauma at an early age affects brain development because the absence of a safety person at a young age creates a lot of insecurity and puts the child in a constant state of stress, impacting mental, behavioral, and emotional development.
  4. For kids in TFC, the end goals are reunification, adoption, Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA), or custody/guardianship.
  5. Due to the disruption an instability that youth in therapeutic foster care often experience, the importance of having relationships with stable, loving adults in their lives both while they’re in foster care and once they’ve aged out of care is immeasurable.  

A Day in the Life of a TFC/Damamli Social Worker

By Bridget McGiffin

For a social worker in the Family Ties Treatment Foster Care and Damamli Mother/Baby program, the work and responsibilities vary on a day to day basis.  At the beginning of the week, one might find themselves reviewing a quarterly treatment plan for a young person.  By the middle of the week, the same worker could have completed three home visits, a meeting at a school for behavioral intervention, and transported a youth to their dental appointment. By the end of the week, the worker is certain to have added to their schedule a few more meetings at the main office, including supervision, and undoubtedly spent several hours updating notes and files.

In addition to the documentation of each contact that happens with all members of a youth’s team, the worker is responsible for facilitating quarterly treatment team meetings for some young people in our care, and bi-monthly meetings for others. For each treatment team meeting, the worker completes a review of the old treatment plan and a new treatment plan. The worker also attends an hour of individual supervision, and two hours of group supervision with other social workers in the agency.

As mentioned previously, the worker completes home visits. These happen twice a month for each youth, and at least once a month, the meeting has to be with the caregivers and the young person. The other time in the month, the visit can be completed independently with the youth. Often, the individual meetings with youth serve multiple purposes; for example, transporting a youth to get their cell phone turned on is a sufficient second visit.  While meeting with the foster parent(s) and the child, the social worker is often in the role of a mediator, as the three parties discuss how things are in the home, and what can be worked on to achieve the goals identified in the team meetings.

Beyond the case management that the social worker provides, the most important role that the social worker engages in is that of a clinician. The social worker has to be delicate in how they approach difficult situations that often contain high-running emotions, fatigue, and fear.  At the very basic level, at Hearts & Homes’ foster care programs, a social worker should be skilled and tactful at encouraging healthy relationships between a foster parent and young person.

Beyond the day to day tasks and responsibilities of a social worker at Hearts & Homes, the worker has professional obligations that they have to uphold.  For example, social workers are required to participate in continued education and training, so that they can engage in evidenced based practices.

Social workers at Hearths and Homes for Youth wear many hats!

Kick Dreams United delivers sneakers to Avis Birely!

On Monday, March 13, Kick Dreams United delivered sneakers to the young men at Avis Birely Group Home!

Kick Dreams United is a nonprofit that collects sneakers and ships them to youth in need around the world as well as in the U.S.

“I truly enjoyed my experience with the young men on Monday! They were very respectful and it was a blessing to be able to visit with them,” said Kick Dreams United Founder and President Tony Hardy. “They seemed really appreciative of the shoes!”

The team from Kick Dreams United personally delivered the donation and told the young men at Avis Birely about their Shining Star program through which youth who show academic improvement get a pair of popular sneakers, as an incentive to do well in school!

Hearts & Homes for Youth and the young men at Avis Birely Group Home are incredibly grateful for the donation!

Students organize drive for Hearts & Homes for Youth!

Hearts & Homes for Youth is grateful to three high school students who rallied support and collected donations for the youth in our care!

Tyrek, DaRae, and Aaron were considering a list of volunteer opportunities for Martin Luther King Jr. Service Day provided by their high schools, but decided to create their own project to directly help others in need.

Tyrek and DaRae attend Wilde Lake High School together, and Tyrek and Aaron have know each other for over ten years; they have played football together since they were six years old, and have become best friends, like brothers. Tyrek’s mother encourages him to seek volunteer opportunities throughout the year and he often encourages his friends to volunteer as well.

The three friends researched shelters and group homes, and came across  Hearts & Homes for Youth. They valued the variety of programs provided and the wide range of counties across Maryland where Hearts & Homes provides services.  The students reached out to learn about our current needs and decided to host a drive for socks and toiletries. The team created their plan, developed roles, and began contacting potential donors.

The entire experience was very fulfilling for the students, in particular, knowing that they were helping children close to their own ages, in need.

Hearts & Homes for Youth and all the youth in our care are grateful for Tyrek, DaRae, and Aaron’s support and all the donations collected!


What do you want to be when you grow up?
What are you good at?
What are your hobbies and interests?

It may come as a surprise that for many of our youth, these questions are hard to answer. When the life experiences of young people force them to focus on survival, opportunities for developing a strong sense of self and the ability to identify personal strengths and goals often suffer.

Hearts & Homes for Youth is proud to use Traitify, a career assessment tool that allows us to help our young people explore career matches while giving them insight into their personalities and strengths. The assessment itself is easy and takes about ninety seconds.

Traitify uses psychology, prompting each tester to select pictures based on their first gut reaction. These selections are then used to provide a full assessment of the taker – their personality, individual traits, and career matches.  Young people will find out if they are visionaries, action takers, inventors, analyzers, planners, etc. with an understanding of the role each plays in the types of careers that would be a good fit. Young people are also able to see what careers are available to them based on varying levels of education.

We are excited to offer Traitify for all of the youth in our agency as they work towards brighter futures!