Theresa Fraser has worked in Children’s Mental Health in Canada since 1983. She has supported children in her role as a Child and Youth Worker, Therapeutic Foster Parent, Foster parent resource worker and now Therapist. She is the Manager of Clinical Services at Branching Out a Play Therapy Resource Program in Ontario, Canada.
She is a part time Professor at Mohawk College in a Child and Youth Worker Program. Theresa’s first book is entitled Billy had to move and she hopes to publish other therapeutic books that will help children in the future.
Theresa and her husband have fostered children over the last twenty years. They have six children ranging in age from 20 – 7 years of age.
What age group is Billy had to move geared for?
Though Billy is seven in the story, this book is geared for children 7 and up who may have had or are experiencing loss, foster care or beginning therapy.
I have read Billy to older children who could relate to Billy’s worries about getting into trouble or knowing how to tie his shoes. Recently, I was present when a developmentally delayed 11 year old was told that she was moving into a new foster home and she loved receiving her own copy of Billy Had to Move.
Through her tears, she verbalized that he was scared too and “ it turned out good for Billy so maybe it will be ok for me”.
What inspired you to write it?
Billy was one of many stories that I have used with children during therapy to help normalize their feelings. Many of these stories contain themes that are so common for children that I and many other Child Therapists work with.
How did you decide to pursue writing?
I have always expressed myself with words. As a child and teen I won poetry competitions and had poetry published in a national newspaper.
I knew I would write fiction as an adult however, to be honest I didn’t think of publishing my children’s stories until I received encouragement from a colleague at an International Play Therapy Study group.
What other projects have you written or are working on?
I am told that an article I submitted to a journal will be published in the fall. Though I have many other stories, I would like to have a story about adoption published in the future.
I also regularly contribute articles to a Canadian Play Therapy magazine entitled, Playground. This magazine is circulated three times a year to therapists across Canada.
How can therapists and caregivers use this book?
This book can be read in it’s entirety over a few reading opportunities or pieces that are applicable can be pulled out. It is not a quick read for sure and time should also be provided to help debrief with the child if any parts of the story were triggering or cathartic.
Given there are a few themes identified, it is a story that can support a child who has experienced disenfranchised loss arising from a missing parent or loss via death. Anxiety symptoms are also labeled which can be helpful for caregivers who have a child who is struggling with utilizing healthy coping strategies. It can also assist children who are beginning therapy as the concepts of confidentiality and treatment goals are introduced at the end of the story.
What advice do you have for therapists and caregivers who work with foster children?
I am not sure I would give advice to be honest. I think that generally foster parents know their foster children the best and can be the least acknowledged member of the treatment team.
Organizations like the Foster Family Treatment Association do much to provide treatment foster parents with:
- training at a yearly conference
- participate in national and local Child welfare coalitions and public policy committees
- help to advocate to define the treatment foster care model and for increased standards of care across the United States
I believe in foster care and have seen many success stories.
In North America there are also regular foster home placements and these foster families work hard to meet the day to day needs of children – often with less supports than treatment foster parents.
I have noted an internet link for the FFTA for your readers as I truly respect the work that they are contributing to support foster care service provision.
I have also noted a link that your readers could utilize to hear the stories of teens and young adults who have grown up in foster care as well as Foster care workers and foster parents. Their stories cannot be easily forgotten and are each less than three minutes long.
How does being a foster parent impact your clinical work?
My experiences impact my work every day whether I am working with a foster child, a foster family, bio or adopted family or facilitating a foster parent training.
I know what it is like to watch your foster child get over the top anxious about a visit and drive an hour to be stood up by their mom or dad. I also know how important it is to honor birth parents for children who may not even remember what they look like.
Also, it is important to remember that no matter what has happened to disrupt that child being able to live or visit with their biological parents, it is important to honor their presence or past presence in the child’s life.
I also know how hard it is to be a foster parent. Your life, your home, your decisions are always under a microscope. You often fight the old prejudices that have occurred because there have been kids abused or neglected in foster care.
I like to refer to foster parents as the Primary Clinician, and I think that if they are not supported to be in this role, we are wasting lots of therapeutic time that is spent with the child in need on a daily basis. As a therapist I hope that I provide a healing space and opportunity for a child but I also want to support the person who is working with the child the most to develop a therapeutic rapport. They create many more therapeutic moments than I ever could in my one hour of service provision a week.
Understanding the challenges and gifts of being not only a foster parent but also a foster family helps we to be more mindful that I am only one part of the child’s treatment team and we all know the old adage, it takes a village to raise a child.
So I guess I would like to add that I believe the story of Billy reinforces this concept of teamwork by the way the many helpers in this story are not only introduced but also work together to help the child.
Thanks Jill for inviting me to participate in this interview. Your readers are welcome to visit my web page or send me an email if they have any further questions or comments. I appreciate the opportunity to share my passion about my work and this book.