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Governor and First Lady Haslam Launch TNFosters Campaign

Monday, December 05, 2016 | 10:16am

Will Focus on Finding Foster Parents and Ways to Support Them

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam on Monday launched TNFosters, an awareness campaign that will work with a variety of non-governmental organizations to encourage more Tennesseans to become foster parents.

TNFosters will also showcase innovative methods citizens have created to support foster parents and the children they serve, from a church that has built a safe room to a non-profit organization that helps celebrate foster children’s birthdays.

“Every child has the right to a loving family,” Gov. Haslam said. “Tennessee currently has well over 6,000 children in foster care, through no fault of their own. More than 4,000 incredible foster parents have stepped up to provide a safe and supportive environment to these children. At the same time, we are always looking for more foster families to help us get these children safe, healthy and back on track.”

Not everyone can become a foster parent, but there are a variety of proven opportunities to help. The goal of TNFosters is to encourage the faith-based community, creative leaders, non-profits and the private sector to find even more ways to advocate for children in the state foster care system.

“We are launching the TNFosters campaign not only to find more amazing foster parents but to recruit additional support into the system,” Mrs. Haslam said. “There are countless ways to help these foster parents and children, and we intend to match those needs with caring Tennesseans who want to help.”

The Haslams were joined for the campaign’s launch on Monday at Cross Point Church in downtown Nashville by state legislators, judges, local officials, non-profit and business leaders. The effort is spearheaded in large part by America's Kids Belong, a national organization that has launched similar efforts in five other states.

“The America's Kids Belong team believes that every child in foster care is unique and carries with them their own story, but they also have a few things in common: resilience, big dreams and even greater potential,” AKB President Brian Mavis said. “They just need a loving, patient and supportive family to help them thrive. Our team is honored and excited to be a part of this movement that will build on the recent child welfare successes in Tennessee. Together we can change the story for children in foster care.”

Tennessee is poised to emerge from a 16-year-old federal consent decree that has contributed to strengthening its public-child welfare practice. A large part of those successes include a more robust foster parent recruitment and retention program, and the TNFosters campaign will build on those ongoing successes at DCS.

“We are always seeking to expand the pool of homes,” DCS Commissioner Bonnie Hommrich said. “We are also looking for foster parents who are willing to accept a wider range of children into their homes – not just small children, but sibling groups and teenagers too.”

Commissioner Hommrich also outlined a set of expectations:

·         Over the next nine months, recruit a minimum of 100 forever homes for the population of children free for adoption who don’t have a family identified.

·         In 2017, recruit and license 10 percent more foster homes than the number voluntarily closed in calendar year 2016.

·         In 2017, begin recruitment initiatives that result in no less than 5 percent of the churches in a county committing to be a part of this faith-based initiative.

Also joining the Governor and the First Lady Monday were other advocates for foster children, including the Tennessee Alliance for Children and Families, an organization composed of the state private-provider network, which offer specialized foster care to the state's children. Also in the forefront was the Tennessee Alliance for Kids, a new group which will be building a network to connect the needs of children and families to churches and organizations that want to help.

The Department of Children’s Services is Tennessee’s public child welfare agency. It includes child protective services, foster care, adoption, independent living programs and juvenile justice. In total, approximately 7,900 children are currently in its care.

For more information on Tennessee’s foster care system and to learn how to become a foster parent or support foster families, visit tnfosters.gov.