Category Archives: Get to know our programs

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!


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!

Books You Should Read for Black History Month

As we recognize Black History Month and celebrate countless achievements by black Americans, our team at Hearts & Homes for Youth would like to share our top picks for books to read during Black History Month.

The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson

A beautifully written historical account of the decades-long migration of black citizens from the South to the North and West. This masterpiece is rich with data, official records, and narratives of individual experiences.

The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfill a Dream, by Sampson Davis

This memoir follows three teenagers from a rough part of Newark, New Jersey, who made a pact to attend medical school together. Also check out: The Bond: Three Young Men Learn to Forgive and Reconnect with Their Fathers, by Sampson Davis.

Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston

A classic Southern love story centered around a strong black female protagonist. Also check out Native Son by Richard Wright

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander

Legal scholar Michelle Alexander argues that racial caste in America has not ended, and that Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control.

S Street Rising: Crack, Murder, and Redemption in D.C., by Ruben Castaneda

A memoir of a crack addict and portrait of Washington D.C. during the height of the crack epidemic.

The Other Wes Moore, by Wes Moore

A book that documents the lives of two young men with the same name, born in the same area, but launched into different directions as a result of choices and opportunities.

From the Hood to the Hill: A Story of Overcoming, by Barry C. Black

From the Hood to the Hill is Chaplain Black’s story of overcoming unpromising beginnings in the ghettos of Baltimore.

Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party, by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin

Black against Empire is a comprehensive overview and analysis of the history and politics of the Black Panther Party.

Untold Glory: African Americans in Pursuit of Freedom, Opportunity, and Achievement, by Alan Govenar

Untold Glory offers a fresh perspective on one of the most fundamental elements of American history—the conquest of new frontiers. In twenty-seven fascinating first-person accounts, African Americans from different eras, backgrounds, and occupations explore and reflect on the meaning of frontier, both literally and metaphorically.

Africana, by Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates

Inspired by the dream of the late African American scholar W.E.B. Du Bois and assisted by an eminent advisory board, Harvard scholars Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Kwame Anthony Appiah have created the first scholarly encyclopedia to take as its scope the entire history of Africa and the African Diaspora.

The Mis-education of the Negro, by Carter G. Woodson

This book by the founder of Black History Month, Carter G. Woodson, is an exploration of what it means to be black in America.

Up from Slavery, by Booker T. Washington

Booker T. Washington describes events in a remarkable life that began in bondage and culminated in worldwide recognition for his many accomplishments. In simply written yet stirring passages, he tells of his impoverished childhood and youth, the unrelenting struggle for an education, early teaching assignments, his selection in 1881 to head Tuskegee Institute, and more.

The Souls of Black Folks, by W.E.B. DuBois

This landmark book is a founding work in the literature of black protest. W. E. B. Du Bois (1868–1963) played a key role in developing the strategy and program that dominated early 20th-century black protest in America. In this collection of essays, first published together in 1903, he eloquently affirms that it is beneath the dignity of a human being to beg for those rights that belong inherently to all mankind.

Autobiography of Malcolm X, by Malcolm X

This autobiography traces Malcolm X’s journey from being born as Malcolm Little to becoming one of the black freedom movement’s most recognizable figures. He describes his life experiences, from encountering racism, to being imprisoned, to being reborn through the Nation of Islam.

Black Boy, by Richard Wright

This autobiography traces Wright’s tortured years in the Jim Crow South from 1912 to 1927.

The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison

The main character wants blue eyes, convinced that it is her ticket to escape from life as a bullied black girl.

A Way to Help Homeless LGBT Youth

By Maureen Rodgers

As homelessness continues to top the list of one of the nation’s biggest and most expensive  problems, many  seem  to  forget that for as many homeless adults that are on the streets, there are the faces of youth also looking for a place to call home. The thought of a homeless youth seems to confuse some people; “If they’re homeless, at least they are with their family,” or “There must be someplace they can go, some family member will take them in. Who would sit by and let a kid live on the streets? ”

The harsh reality is that many youth that are homeless are not choosing a life on the streets, but have been forced to leave their homes due to their families’ not being accepting of their lifestyle. One group that this rings true for is lgbt youth.

According to a study that appeared in Families in Society, one out of every five homeless youth (20 percent) is lgbt-identified. LGBT youth also suffer victimization on the streets at a rate much higher than non-lgbt-identified groups.

When youth up to age 21 can no longer remain in their homes due to their birth families’ being unable or unwilling to care for them, they are sometimes (depending on the circumstances) able to receive help from the state, by entering into the custody of the Department of Social Services (DSS) or Department of Juvenile Services (DJS), through placement in group homes, independent living programs and foster care. Youth who do not receive services from these agencies are often left to fend for themselves and vie for the few resources available to homeless youth.

One such program, the Transitional Living Program, a four bed semi-independent living apartment operated by Hearts & Homes for Youth and located in Prince George’s County, Maryland services homeless youth ages 16-21 from any jurisdiction in Maryland. The program is self-admitting, meaning that any homeless youth that do not have other resources in no way match the need; programs such as this one are in dire need of financial partners so services can be expanded.

“LGBT youth in care are searching for the trusting relationship with a caregiver that will allow them to fully express who  they are without the fear of rejection or ridicule.”

Homeless youth who do receive help from the state often face another difficult plight. Many of those adolescents identify as lgbt and just like any other youth in care, are looking for a safe and loving environment. But even more, lgbt youth in care are also searching for the trusting relationship with a caregiver that will allow them to fully express who they are without the fear of rejection or ridicule. This type of relationship is something that many youth in care did not receive from their birth families and the reason why some of the youth end up in care.

Determining an appropriate placement for a youth in care who identifies as lgbt is not always an easy task, nor one that is often done with the individual needs of the youth in the forefront. To be blunt, the amount of placements  that  are  available  to  youth  in care  are  sometimes  scarce,  so  attempting to secure a placement that meets all of the youth’s needs can be difficult.

Placement in a group home or independent living program can be difficult due to the fact that the youth will be placed in an environment with other youth from a variety of different backgrounds, and may not be accepting of the youth’s sexual orientation. If a youth is transgender, placement is even more difficult because a youth is placed according to their assigned gender and not the gender they identify with.

Another option for placement is foster care, which can sometimes work better for lgbt youth because there is a little bit more variety and flexibility in the types of homes and foster parents available. But the search for good foster parents is not always an easy one, especially in today’s economy.

My search for foster parents takes me many places: I advertise in local newspapers, visit neighborhood fairs and festivals, attend community meetings and post fliers. But my greatest source of referrals is people that are willing to take a greater interest in our nation’s greatest resource–our youth–and talk about the issue to everyone they know.

The kind older neighbors next door, the gay couple that you attend church with, or the single mother in your aerobics class are our foster parents; so is the quiet gentleman you ride the bus with, the retired nurse that you see from time to time when you visit your parents, and the mechanic to whom you bring your car. Our foster parents come from all walks of life and different experiences, but they all share one thing in common, they answered a call to service and changed the lives of one or more young people forever.

What I look for in foster parents are people who can handle the challenges of what can sometimes be a difficult situation, and grow from those challenges. To me, the difficult situation of a child in foster care and an lgbt adult are connected. Both groups are often stigmatized and misunderstood, and the opportunity to bring both groups together by a gay couple or single gay person becoming a foster parent to a child in need is an opportunity for both sides to provide the other party with something they may have been missing. For the foster parent, a child that they may have been wanting and have possibly been told time and time again was unattainable.

And for the foster child, there would be love and support in a safe environment where they can finally be themselves.

Maureen  Rodgers, MA is  the Assistant Program Manager  of the Damamli Young Mother and Family Ties Therapeutic Foster Care programs at Hearts and Homes for Youth.

Jack and Jill of America, Inc. Montgomery Chapter shows support!

20161112_142749On Saturday three social workers from Hearts & Homes for Youth Damamli/TFC programs met with kids involved in the Montgomery County Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. and spoke with them about the different types of homelessness and the different people affected by homelessness.

Following the discussion, the youth broke into groups and developed short skits to demonstrate particular problems faced by individuals experiencing homelessness. They reflected on the feelings and struggles facing these individuals on a daily basis, and brainstormed ways to demonstrate compassion for people in such situations.

The youth donated cookies they had decorated along with over 500 diapers, over 1000 wipes, over 30 pairs of socks, and over 35 under garments for youth in Hearts & Homes for Youth’s Damamli/TFC program.  The donations are greatly appreciated and will benefit many young mothers and foster youth in our care!

Gift card collection drive!

09ljgfbk1xHearts & Homes for Youth is launching a gift card collection drive! Our goal is, with the help of our supporters, to amass 500 gift cards in the amounts of $20, $50, and $100 to places such as Target, Giant, and Walmart where there is a wide selection, as well as Visa gift cards.

Many of the youth in our care are foster youth and have, for much of their lives, received donations. While they are grateful for the items, they also love the opportunity to choose for themselves, something they want or need. The purpose in collecting gift cards is to give the youth in our care the opportunity to pick something for themselves, that they want or need.

We would be grateful for support from individuals, groups, organizations, churches, and businesses! If you would like to get involved, please contact Caitlin Ward at

What our kids are up to

Hq5fjuk9ofhearts & Homes is dedicated to providing the youth in our care with all of the tools, resources, and opportunities they need, to empower them to build brighter futures. We are proud to share updates about some of the kids in our care!

A 15-year old young man in our foster care program was recently hired by a barbershop to take before and after pictures. We look forward to supporting his blossoming artistic career!

A young mother in our Independent Living Program graduated from high school last month and is in the process of enrolling for community college. After earning her Associate’s, she plans to study social work!

One of our young mothers successfully completed the program and has moved into an apartment in Baltimore with her long time boyfriend and two children.

After two years in our program, a young mother was reunified with a family member. The Aunt has welcomed the young mother, her boyfriend, and their 1-year old son into her home. The couple is expecting their second child this month. This young mother received her Nursing Assistant Certification earlier this year and plans to return to school for the Patient Care Technician Certification after her baby is born.

Another young mother is progressing through our Damamli program! she recently signed her own lease and was excited to furnish her apartment. She is attending Community College and working full time with an AmeriCorps program in Baltimore County.

We are so proud of the youth in our care and for all of their achievements!

A welcome basket for our young mothers

IMG_6868This week Hearts & Homes for Youth’s incredible Social Workers assembled welcome baskets for the young mothers entering our Damamli Independent Living Program! As you can see in the picture, the welcome basket includes cleaning supplies and hygiene products.

Life skills training, which includes cooking, cleaning, self care, banking, and more, is one of many supportive services we provide to the youth in our care as part of our mission to empower the youth to build brighter futures.

We are grateful to our supporters who regularly donate household items, hygiene products, and so much more that support the healing, growth, and development in the youth in our care!

If you are interested in donating, please send an email to Caitlin Ward at

Building brighter skill sets

0MLR4O66MPOur kids have had a great summer so far, thanks to partnerships with great groups like Most Valuable Kids and Bethesda Big Train, and to supporters in the community. The unique experiences and opportunities that one might take for granted, are a first time for many of the youth in our care!

In addition to the unique experiences, the young in our programs are keeping themselves active this summer. For example, one of the young women at Helen Smith Group Home graduated in June and has been working at a local restaurant this summer. She will begin studying in the fall at Montgomery College or Morgan State University. Her goal is to become a nurse.

Another young lady at Helen Smith Group Homes is also working at a local restaurant and taking two summer classes so that she can graduate from high school this summer.

Another youth is a rising Senior at her high school. She has been working this summer as a lifeguard at a community pool. She enjoys theatre and drama class. Her goal is to be a business owner.

One young woman is entering her Junior year and will participate in the Dual Enrollment program for high school students at Montgomery College. She has also been working at a local restaurant this summer.

Three young ladies are fairly new to the program. One is attending summer school and enjoys arts and crafts. Another enjoys animals and working with her hands; she said when she grows up she wants to be a tow truck driver, a volunteer fire fighter, or an auto mechanic. The third young woman loves animals, cooking, and trying new things; she recently helped volunteers with yard work at the group home.