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Navigating mental health for families on the adoption and foster care journey

Navigating mental health for families on the adoption and foster care journey
If you could wave a magic wand, what would you wish for?

For behavioral health therapist Casey Harvilla, M.A., ATR-BC, LPC, of The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh, it’s an easy response: Accessible mental health care for all age groups with no barriers.

“There are many behavioral health services that are not readily available,” said Harvilla. For many families, it can be a challenge to find the right care with the right therapist at the right time. 

Over the past year, Harvilla set out on a professional mission to advance her knowledge in a niche area of support – behavioral health services for children, adolescents, and their families who have been part of the foster care system or been through an adoption journey.

Through work, research, and trainings with a virtual cohort, Harvilla obtained a certificate of completion for the Accredited Training for Adoption Competency (TAC) Training Curriculum, an assessment-based certificate program accredited by the Institute for Credentialing Excellence.

“As a clinician, I feel that most of us are trying to find niche areas to work with and build our own skills up as much as we can,” Harvilla said. “There are a lot of challenges that show up in the therapy world surrounding adoption, pre-adoptive families, and post-permanency that are not always a major area of focus – things that can really impact overall mental health. Through this certificate, the goal was to have the education to better assess underlying and core issues that come up as kids and families navigate the foster care and adoption process.”

It’s a mission that’s important to the Family Support Services team (formerly Project STAR) at The Children’s Institute. As an affiliate of the Pennsylvania Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN), the team helps families address barriers to permanency for children and respond to the increased numbers of children needing adoption services. The Children’s Institute improves permanency outcomes by providing a wide range of individualized, trauma-informed services.

For Harvilla, it’s all about teamwork and collaboration, both core values of The Children’s Institute, and taking a healing-centered approach that makes the organization a truly amazing place to work.

“I feel like every day is something different, which I really enjoy,” Harvilla noted. “I always look forward to seeing and hearing about improvements the kids have been making. Or if there are things they are struggling with, how have they tried to cope better by taking in information from therapy and applying it? One of the perks of being a child and adolescent therapist is that you get to be a little bit more fun in helping kids through serious topics as you bring about creative ways to problem solve.”

“One of the biggest messages I have for anyone who feels like they are struggling is to not be afraid to reach out for assistance, even if that struggle feels silly or ‘not that big of a deal,’” said Harvilla. “Just know there are supports available.”

The Children’s Institute is currently growing its therapy team and seeking to hire more behavioral health therapists to fulfill community need.

Learn more about therapist Casey Harvilla’s approach to quality behavioral health care in this video.
Jenna Ammer
Marketing & Communications Manager

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