Who We Are

What is “Environmental Alternatives?”
Environmental Alternatives (EA) is a private, non-profit corporation that provides a variety of residential services to neglected, abused, and delinquent children. EA operates a Foster Family Agency, Group Home Program, Transitional Housing Placement Program (THPP) and Transitional Housing Program Plus (THP+).

Background
The corporation was founded in 1981 when it opened its first group home in Quincy. The Foster Family Agency began in 1983 to better meet the needs of foster care in northern California. The social work staff have extensive background in human services and meet all State licensing standards. The corporation provides residential service to as many as 500 children at any time.

Philosophy
It is well known that the primary caregiver, normally a biological parent, is the foremost environmental influence in a child’s life. The foster parent is in an excellent position to fill this role in times of substitute care. Our agency views the foster parent as the primary tool to powerfully influence children in their care. Our “therapeutic foster parent” model places the foster parent as the focus receiving support, training, and guidance from multiple resources.

Treatment Philosophy

It is well known that the primary caregiver, normally a biological parent, is the foremost environmental influence in a child’s life. The foster parent is in an  excellent position to fill this role in times of substitute care. Our agency views the foster parent as the primary tool to powerfully influence children in their care. Our “therapeutic foster parent” model places the foster parent as the focus receiving support, training, and guidance from multiple resources.


EA's Philosophy
accommodates the unique needs of placement workers, care providers and children, requiring flexibility and inventive solutions.

EA strives to customize and individualize wraparound style services.

Yet, even with individualized services, there is a need for a systematic approach to assess outcomes. EA strives to identify the characteristics of children receiving services and continually evaluate the effectiveness of the program.

EA borrows heavily from social work's Systems Theory and psychology's Behavioral Management practices. In using these two widely accepted care giving models, EA consistently employs principles, such as:

The stronger the bond between adult and child, the greater the potential for therapeutic change.

While effective parenting means providing consistent structure and boundaries, little meaningful, long-term change occurs unless the relationship between child and parent is strong. In both foster home and group home we try to find parents who can easily bond with children, but it is difficult to predict whether or not a bond will develop.

We work at improving the integrity of family units by viewing foster parents as the foremost architects of change. The strength of their bond with children is the best tool to effect therapeutic change. Skills normally taught at home to natural children, should be taught to foster children by foster parents, at home.

EA prepares children to live in normal family settings by placing them in (foster) family homes operating with normal family dynamics.

By making the foster parent the primary link between the child and the outside world, we recreate what happens in normal homes. Foster parents like this normalizing approach, providing EA with a stable group of caregivers.

We avoid undermining the authority of foster parents by not having family meetings run by our staff, or allowing social workers to be rescuers for children. When we see the need for foster parents to change, we carefully package information in ways that allow parental authority to remain intact.
Because we promote bonds between foster parents and children, our social workers assume a more difficult task. Gathering information is done in less intrusive and disruptive ways. EA social workers have direct contact with children, but arrange interventions through foster parents.

Another innovative idea we use is non ownership of cases. Although a foster family typically works with the same social worker, all our social workers have responsibility for all cases. Whenever foster parents or placement workers need assistance, they may ask and expect answers from any staff. People needing information should not need to wait for a particular social worker to return from vacation, illness, or other business to obtain answers. Foster parents may also freely switch between social workers at any time.

EA service is at the convenience of foster parents and placement staff, not EA staff.

A final characteristic that makes EA unique is the practice of decentralized management. We hire competent professionals to do social work. They have authority to do the job, with as little management interference as possible. As a result, our social workers consistently display high levels of responsibility for case management.

A stable, autonomous workforce promotes child growth and development.

Operating within EA's established policies, social workers freely explore creative solutions to child care needs with foster parents and placement workers, without excessive supervision. Because our social workers feel supported and independent, they are better equipped to provide quality services to foster parents, ensuring the best possible care of foster children.

 
Administrative Office   ::   P. O. Box 3940   ::   455 W. Main St.   ::   Quincy, CA 95971   ::   (530) 283-3330   ::   (800) 655-8350   ::   Fax (530) 283-2150
Executive Director   ::   Tim Wilkinson 1-800-655-8350
OCA#320316037