The center has operated in Cleveland about 10 years and in Tennessee since 1972. The agency contracts with the state of Tennessee to provide for therapeutic needs of children and serves all of Southeast Tennessee.
Teaching parenting skills is offered as well as educational and crisis support. Services for the families are provided in clients’ homes, schools, neighborhoods or workplaces.
The foster care program is for children — and their families — with moderate to severe emotional and behavioral problems; those at risk of placement outside the home; those stepping down from residential treatment or hospitalization; recent outpatient therapy patients; or situations when the family is not stabilized.
Three types of services come into play: the Crossroads Program which provides treatment in the homes of children who would otherwise require out-of-home placement; Bridges, which provides foster care services; and Connections, the special needs adoption program which works with children who have special emotional, behavioral, educational or medical needs. Camelot advocates adoption when appropriate, said Webb.
She said that when meeting clients, first there is a comprehensive assessment of the child and his environment, followed by treatment planning. Therapeutic interventions are also in place at the home, school or community. Case management services are provided with a minimum of three visits weekly. Crisis support is given 24/7 and there is a 90- to 120-day crisis stabilization service.
A major challenge for children, Webb said, is to learn how to be loved by family. And there is the fear of the foster care parent getting too attached.
In Bradley County, currently, only four or five foster parents are in the program. “We are focusing on growing,” Webb confided.
She added that foster parenting is not for everyone. “It takes amazing perseverance,” she said. But, she added, the greatest need is for these foster parents.
Most foster care homes are in Meigs and McMinn counties. There is a prevention satellite office in Polk County. “We get calls from Bradley and would love to place them here — keep in the same area — but we need more homes in Bradley County.”
The agency accepts all ages, infant to before 18th birthday. After age 18, the clients are given a choice — college and apartment — but some, Webb said, don’t take advantage of the offers.
Potential foster parents receive training in a six-week series, two nights a week. They must meet certain qualifications:
- Must be 25 years of age or older and can be married or single.
- If two-parent household, both must participate.
- Must have reliable transportation.
- Must agree not to use any type of physical punishment.
- Must have satisfactory health (physician’s statement) to carry out the responsibilities of being a therapeutic foster home.
- Money cannot be a motivator in being a good therapeutic foster parent. Families should be financially stable and income must be adequate to cover the family’s expenses. Foster care reimbursement cannot be sole income.
Foster parents learn CPR and medicine administration, also, as well as home study. Everyone has a Camelot counselor.
Unification, Webb said, is the No. 1 goal for Camelot, and “we prepare for that. Foster care is all about providing care and healing families, as PATH states: “Parent as tender healers.”
Webb said she often speaks at churches and civic organizations, but she doesn’t try to convince anyone to enter the program as foster parents. “They must feel ‘called’ to do it. She’s also been able to inform the community about foster care opportunities through speaking at festivals and fairs, word of mouth and with open house events.
“I would like to get into more churches,” Webb said. If one family in every church could take one child, she explained, all the children in Tennessee would receive the care they need.
The Cleveland Camelot Care Center has two supervisors and eight staff members. Some 18 to 20 counselors serve the clients. The center partners with the Bradley County Juvenile Court, also, and accepts clients with judges’ assessments.
Another partner is the Kiwanis Club in Cleveland, which collects luggage for the children to use. Webb said most children enter the center with only a plastic bag with a few belongings and they are thrilled when they are given a real suitcase.
Webb has lived in Cleveland since age 13 and graduated from Lee University. She started her work as a counselor, working with children first, then parents. She calls her experiences with children “little bits of joy.”
She said there are mixed feelings when a child goes back home — the hardest part. Although success brings happiness, the foster parent is heartbroken. And what Webb enjoys the most, she added, are adoption special moments. “It is a joyful experience.”