There are thousands of children in foster care every year. Many of those children have extra needs.

Therapeutic foster care is for children who may have been exposed to trauma and have more behavioral needs. Foster parents wishing to parent these children are required to be licensed, but it’s not a difficult process.

A Hubbard couple is referred to as the “Golden Child Couple” by their agency because of their dedication to the children they help.

Elysia and Shaun McCullough are therapeutic foster parents. They have six kids of their own, and over the past two years, they’ve also helped change the lives of 16 others.

Being a therapeutic foster parent requires more training because you are caring for children with trauma and extra needs. But the McCulloughs are dedicated to helping turn those lives around.

The McCulloughs have cared for two infants that came straight from the NICU after being born addicted to drugs. They say it’s challenging but very rewarding. 

“You’ve learned to watch them change and turn into these amazing little people and to know that they are taking that with them to go back to their family is amazing,” Elysia said. “The most rewarding and challenging journey that I have ever embarked on.”

Shaun and Elysia say they love seeing families reunited, but it’s hard to leave the children they grew to love. Shaun says the little interactions are what he remembers most.

“Getting a hug and saying thank you and that they loved me for what I was doing for them,” he said.

There is always a need for more foster parents, and Elysia says don’t let the fear of getting too attached scare you away. It just means the children have more people in their life who love them.

“If you think you want to do it, you’ll never know unless you try,” she said.

The McCulloughs do everything they can to help the children even after they leave their home. They stay in touch become a support system for the biological parents.

In Ohio, there are nearly 16,000 children in foster care. That number continues to grow amid the opioid epidemic. 

There are county and private agencies that help to place children in safe homes. Jaime Gillen is the state marketing specialist for Ohio MENTOR, which offers therapeutic foster care and mental health services for youth of all ages with emotional, behavioral and other complex challenges—as well as their families. She says there are more options than people think. 

“I think there is a lot of times when somebody decides that they want to make a difference in a child’s life and they want to step forward and become a foster parent, but they think the county agency is the only option for them,” Gillen said.

County agencies are able to license parents to care for children in their own county. Private agencies work with various counties and can place children from outside counties. 

Both county and private agencies work together to find children the best care. 

Gillen says there are many misconceptions about being a foster parent that stop parents from exploring their options. One of those is income. She says foster parents do not have to have a high income. Family pets are welcome, too. 

More information on how to become a foster family is available through your local county. Links are provided below:

Columbiana County 

Lawrence County

Mahoning County

Mercer County

Trumbull County