“All children deserve to live in a safe, nurturing home where they can feel valued and loved.”
This is the belief and mission of Broadstep, a national program dedicated to pairing children with families through Therapeutic Foster Care.
Broadstep, formerly known as Willow Glen, is the first in South Carolina to offer a Therapeutic Foster Care program.
Stella Shellgren is Broadstep’s TFC recruiter. Her job is to match children with a home and family that can care for and nurture them.
Shellgren said Therapeutic Foster Care is for children with traumas, behavioral and social issues, autism spectrum disorder, Opposition Defiant Disorder, PTSD, anxiety and depression.
“There’s a huge range of what these children come in with,” Shellgren said. “They need extra support and structure they don’t have.”
Broadstep provides training for interested TFC foster parents to prepare them for challenges they may face, from CPR and first aid training to in-depth lessons on coping with trauma.
“We want to establish strong relationships with these families,” Shellgren said. “These children need more support than those in traditional foster care. We want to set them up for success and a long-term placement.”
Support for families includes case management and individualized service plans (ISPs), 24-hour emergency on-call services, community-based therapy and counseling based on ISPs, ongoing education and skill development for foster parents, advocacy and support for court and school systems, low parent-to-child ratios and program oversight and quality assurance.
Shellgren said that when children are bounced around from home to home, it results in more trauma, which is hard to recover from.
“They are so resilient,” she said. “These kids need support to realize ‘I’m more than this.’ They are not victims; they are survivors.”
Shellgren is a survivor of childhood trauma herself and has used her experience as an example for children and families.
“My mother got me and my siblings out of a bad situation. I hated people. I hated life. But I didn’t let that experience define me,” she said. “I’m now a mother of two. I love life. I love to laugh. I’ve proven many people wrong. I can understand and empathize with where these children are coming from because of my past. It makes this job mean so much more.”
Two local children shared their experiences with Broadstep.
Dennis, age 14, lives at Broadstep’s youth home in Georgetown County.
“Broadstep was built to helps kids and teens like me with my goals to live on my own or get adopted,” he said. “I work to accomplish goals like lessening my behaviors, keeping good grades, doing chores, being respectful and responsible, things like that…I would recommend parents to send their kids here. It helps with their problems and how to cope with [them].”
Jaylon, who was born and raised in Atlanta, is now a Broadstep client.
“Looking back from when I first arrived to now, I have seen improvement in myself and in others,” he said. “I am currently working on bettering myself by being more respectful and trying not to talk back to staff and peers. I am thankful for Broadstep because they are helping me become a better person. They see potential in me that I didn’t know I had.”
Austin Rowell is the clinical coordinator at Broadstep’s youth home. He conducts therapy sessions with individuals at that location and puts them on a plan to meet goals and strive to do better.
“It touched my heart to see how much we’ve helped these individuals,” Shellgren said.
Prospective TFC parents can expect to take approximately 60 hours of training through Broadstep.
‘We want to make sure everything is covered,” the recruiter said. “I am working with them through the entire process.”
After an initial phone inquiry, interested individuals will fill out an application, which is followed by a home visit and interview. Qualified individuals then begin training and go through a series of background checks, certifications and fire and in-depth home inspections. South Carolina Department of Social Services receives all their information and issues a license. Shellgren said it can take 3-6 months for license approval. Then placement begins.
“We are looking for a family for the child, not a child for the family. We want to make sure everybody fits,” she said. “Every child is different. Parents are our biggest allies. They make sure the child’s basic needs are being met and beyond.”
Broadstep offers virtual trainings in the wake of COVID-19 and also offers in-person training with small groups of 2-3 families. Group training is preferred as other families can offer different viewpoints and it becomes more interactive.
“You can be the others’ support system,” Shellgren said.
For those who may not be ready for a full-time parenting position but want to serve as a backup babysitter or respite caretaker for TFC families, Broadstep provides the same training program for those helpers.
Broadstep’s TFC program works with children up to age 21.
Teens are especially in need of placement in the Grand Strand area.
“They need to be shown the right direction,” Shellgren said, including independent living skills .
Shellgren receives daily referrals on children who need homes and is contacted from all over the state. There are currently 4,500 kids in need of placement.
“There is such a need for it,” she said. “I’m trying to find people with compassion, patience and heart. It’s making such a big difference for these kids. We’re giving them a second chance to live.”
To learn more about Broadstep or to begin the TFC foster parent process, call Shellgren at 843-372-5222 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit
www.broadstep.com or check out “Broadstep Behavioral Health-SC, Inc.” on Facebook for more information.