UMFS Child & Family Healing Center (Part II): Helping Youth Heal

November 12, 2019

Cottage Manager Tavis Foushee and Senior Manager of Residential Life Dana Ray have witnessed quite a lot in their combined 33 years at UMFS Child & Family Healing Center (CFHC): an adolescent with trauma so severe they’d lie on the ground gagging for hours; a teenager who’d experienced such neglect they exhibited infant-like behavior; and a father who simply disappeared.

“Dad dropped the child off and said he’d be back in two weeks to visit,” Tavis said, shaking his head. “Dad never showed back up. Hasn’t showed back up to this day, and I’ve been here 20 years.”

Children who’ve come to expect absence, abuse, or neglect from parents or caregivers often have difficulty forging healthy relationships. What that means for a majority of the young people at CFHC is there are behaviors they must unlearn before they are able to build new skills.

“By the time most of these kids get to us,” Dana said, “they’ve been abused, lied to, and their trust has been broken.”

So how does one even begin to address that sort of pain?

(Pictured: Senior Manager of Residential Life Dana Ray (right) and Cottage Manager Nikki Reese)

“It starts with consistency,” said Sheena Lyle, CFHC Program Director. “That’s something maybe our youth haven’t always had at home. What we offer is stability and structure around the clock.” And to promote stability and structure, each resident has an individual treatment plan guided by four building blocks:

Belonging: Getting to know the program and learning to build supports.
Mastery: Mastering thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in healthy ways.
Independence: Learning self-initiative and how to use safety plans.
Generosity: Learning to be an example to peers by showing generosity.

The goal of CFHC isn’t to teach youth how to function in a residential setting, Sheena said. Rather, it’s for youth to take skills they learn in residential and apply them to the outside world. “We don’t want to create a fish bowl or microcosm,” she said. “We want them to get treatment, understand why they’re here, and adapt when they leave us.”


Dana, Sheena, and Tavis are well aware of the stigma attached to residential facilities. They’re also quick to dispel myths. “Remember, these aren’t bad kids,” Tavis said. “Once they get here, we have so many doors for them and their families to open.”

(Pictured: Cottage Manager Tavis Foushee (left) and UMFS President and CEO Greg Peters)

Youth at CFHC are provided with tools for success to become resilient adults. They hone skills during their residency and are encouraged to exercise them when they leave. Many young people return home when they discharge, Sheena said, and some might receive post-residential services like Intensive Care Coordination or Family Support Partners.

In other cases, especially for youth who’ve experienced complex trauma, CFHC is part of a larger process. “Sometimes youth might go to a group home or step down to another treatment facility when they leave us,” Sheena said.

And then there are residents who return.

“Relapse is a part of treatment,” Sheena said. “You don’t fail and it’s not over because you go backwards. CFHC might be the place they go back to so they can find where they need to pick up from.”

This is part two of a three-part series that takes an up-close look at the UMFS Child & Family Healing Center in Richmond.