Foster families are being sought in Ocean and Monmouth Counties to help children and teens struggling with social and emotional health issues.

Ocean MHS (Facebook)

The foster families are trained to provide guidance, support and stability to children ages seven to 17 as part of the 'Connections' therapeutic treatment home program , which is run under Ocean Mental Health Services.

Coordinator Martina Lambiase said a counselor also comes to the home each week as part of the treatment program and someone is available to call 24/7 if needed.

'Connections' serves as a transition program where children are placed in the therapeutic treatment homes for a relatively short period of time. According to their press release, they can reside in the connections program anywhere from 30 days to a year.

"The goal is ultimately reunification for the child and their family or with adoptive parents," Lambiase explained.

Lambiase stated that child participants are identified through the Perform Care Network, where they're able to identify children that require the level of care provided by the therapeutic treatment homes and they're able to link the kids that have this need with treatment home families.

However, there are only four such homes in the Ocean and Monmouth County region. Lambiase said they're looking for upwards of 10 families to participate.

'Connections' also provides a generous bi-weekly stipend to assist families with cost, such as food, clothing, housing and recreation.

The qualities they're looking for in participating families are flexibility, honesty, openness.

"These kids usually have unique needs and they have to be very flexible and open with trying to help them, and also to be able to take guidance from our program on how to best assist them," Lambiase said.

One of the families is being honored with a Proclamation by the Borough of Keyport on November 26th for receiving the "Commitment to Childhood Development Award" from the Ocean Mental Health Services organization.

Joan and Tony Agnello of Keyport have fostered over 15 children as part of the 'Connections' Therapeutic Treatment Home program since 2000.

Lambiase said the Agnello's keep in touch with the children they've fostered and tell the story of one of them, now in his thirties, who's been able to give back to his community by beginning a hockey league. It's a skill he gained during his time in the Agnello home.

Get more information about 'Connections' at the Ocean Mental Health Services website or by calling 732-349-3535. You can also email Martina Lambiase.