Tennessee Foster Care

Tennessee Foster Care

By Cathy Warmbrod, Attorney
McDonald, Levy and Taylor, PLLC

Foster Care and the Pandemic

Today, there are more than 9,000 children in the foster care system in Tennessee, but only about 4,000 foster homes in the state. During the pandemic, not only did the number of children entering foster care increase, but the number of Department of Children’s Services workers decreased at the same time.

The Goal

The goal of a foster care placement is for the child to be able to safely return to their family. The foster family provides the child with a safe environment while the parents work on doing what they need to do to regain custody of the child. While ideally, foster care is only a temporary situation, often the foster placement lasts for a year or longer

Foster Parent

If there is a family member who can take a child, DCS might attempt to place the child, and any siblings, with that family member before placement with a foster family. However, family placements must meet the same criteria that a foster family is required to meet before a child will be placed in the home.

The requirements to become a foster parent include being age 21 or older; passing a background check; and completing training and a home study.

Support and Training

Foster families receive support and training from not only DCS but also from other agencies in the state that partner with DCS. There is a tremendous need to foster parents for older children and siblings. If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, you can submit an Inquiry Form for Potential Foster Parents, which can be found at https://www.tn.gov/dcs/program-areas/foster-care-and-adoption/foster-care/become-a-fp.html or call 877-DCS-KIDS. The process begins with DCS contacting you and scheduling your attendance at an informational meeting and other training sessions. Next, DCS will conduct a home study.

Foster Care and Adoption

Although foster placement is meant to be temporary, when a parent cannot or will not provide a safe environment for the child to return to with that parent, permanent options, such as adoption or permanent guardianship, are the next step. More than 80% of the adoptions from foster care are by the foster parents. If a person is approved to foster a child, then they are also approved to adopt and will be given first option to adopt a child they fostered or another child that becomes eligible for adoption.

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