As a one-time corrections officer, David Hileman has seen his fair share of hardened criminals.
As a foster parent, he is trying to reduce the number of those who get that far.
For 12 years, Hileman, 55, and his wife, Alicia, 42, have opened their Hollidaysburg home to foster children, most recently to those already dabbling in the hard life.
(Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec)
Foster parents Dave and Alicia Hileman of Hollidaysburg have taken in nearly 40 children during the past 12 years.
Hileman's foster parenting philosophy: "Try to make a difference in their lives now before it's too late."
The Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care program is looking for more parents like the Hilemans who have the time to dedicate to a child who deserves a chance at a better life.
For nearly two years, Northwestern Human Services Canal Ways Center in Hollidaysburg has offered the decades-old treatment alternative to places such as juvenile detention centers.
The program is for young people 12 to 17 years old who have a history of law violations and other problems such as school failure, family problems, aggression, drug and alcohol use, poor peer relations, poor coping and social skills, minimal work skills and low self-esteem.
Jim Hudack, director of foster care services, said 10 children - seven from Blair County - are participating in the program.
A 17-year-old girl in the program said it is not difficult to follow, and she gets along with her foster parents.
"They're just like regular parents," she said.
She said before she entered the foster care program, she did not see much of a future ahead, but she now is envisioning graduation and college.
Foster parents and staff members work as a team with each child and his or her biological family during the six- to 12- month-long program.
The team decides the amount of contact the child has with the biological family, Hudack said, as well as when they can be reunited.
Children who have substance abuse and sexual predatory issues must complete treatment before entering the program.
The program allows only one participating child per foster family.
The program places a child with trained foster parents who monitor a point system in which the child's behavior earns him or her points for privileges, such as watching TV or staying up later.
Foster parent responsibilities include providing around-the-clock supervision. On-call support is available at all hours, and the program requires weekly support meetings and daily phone calls to report on the child's behavior and foster parents' stress level.
Alicia Hileman said she and her husband came to Canal Ways from another organization because of its support system.
''We really, really enjoy this program," she said.
Hudack said research shows children who participate are less likely to get into trouble again.
Program Supervisor Grace Clarke said the program focuses on a child's positive actions rather than negative, but without ignoring problems.
To stay committed as a foster parent, Alicia Hileman looks toward ''little joys,'' such as witnessing a child's first family-style Christmas or seeing a face gleam from praise, while David gains satisfaction in giving a child a stable life with a promising future.
For more information on how to become a foster parent for the program, visit www.nhsonline.org or call the Canal Ways Center at 695-7180.