The state of foster care in Tennessee is in crisis. More children than ever need temporary, safe homes compared to the amount of open foster homes. Nationwide, a child is placed into foster care every two minutes, so the need is great. In Tennessee, more than 8,000 kids are in the foster care system with only around 4,000 certified foster homes available.
While opening your home and becoming a foster parent may not be feasible for you, your family can help by supporting foster families in your communities. Like helping someone who is sick, an elderly neighbor, or your friend who just had a baby, you can support foster families.
Here are a few ways to help:
A meal train. Imagine having a new set of toddler siblings in your home one day and trying to continue the routine as it was before. It sounds almost impossible, but many foster parents face this when a child needs a home. By arranging for your church group or neighbors to bring dinner to a foster family, say twice a week for a month, you’re helping the family find a new normal and sit down to have a meal together without the hassle of grocery shopping, planning and preparing.
Offer to help with housework. Ask the foster family in your life if they need help with raking leaves or cutting the grass. This kind of help is a good way to involve your kids in the process, showing them what a difference they can make in someone’s life by doing a small task. Even offering to help take the trash cans back up from the street can lift a heavy burden for foster families.
Donate items. If you have an old (but still safety-compliant) crib, toddler clothes and shoes, books or toys, you can donate the items to a foster care resource center in your community or directly to a foster family if you know someone who has a need. For local resources, visit TN Fosters.
Offer your ears. While you may not support the foster children directly, you can offer mental support to the foster families in your life by listening. Allowing a foster mom to talk can offer a safe and supportive space for her to open up and feel more at ease about her situation.
Pay for an outing. Trips to the zoo or local museums can add up once you add people to your family. By paying for a membership or even a single visit, you’re providing a fun event for the whole family.
To learn more about becoming a foster parent, you can sign up for an information session, or certification classes (TN-KEY), or speak with a representative at DCS or another partnering agency.
Youth Villages – 1-888-MY-YV-KID or www.youthvillages.org/foster
Department of Children’s Services – 1-877-DCS-KIDS or www.tn.gov/dcs
Youth Villages is one of the largest providers of services to children in Tennessee and a national leader in children’s mental and behavioral health. The organization has been recognized by the Harvard Business School and U.S. News & World Report and was identified by The White House as one of the nation’s most promising results-oriented nonprofit organizations. Learn more at www.youthvillages.org.
Crisis services are available 24/7 if your child needs support. Call 855-CRISIS-1 or text CONNECT to 741741. If you have thoughts of suicide, contact 988 to be connected to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.