CHATTANOOGA, Tenn (WDEF) – Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, The Tennessee Department of Child Services has been hard at work helping foster children find safe and welcoming homes.
Statewide- there are 8,000 children in need of a foster home and over 300 JUSt in our local area.
Officials say with more foster families choosing not to foster during the pandemic, the need for new foster families is higher than ever before. With some families taking in more children during this time, the shortage is taking a toll on more than just the children.
“Foster parents are experiencing burnout. When you have a child that has significant extra needs and you have opened your home to them, you need that extra support. So when parents aren’t in their communities and have that extra support; the weight can be a lot more heavy on them. We have been encouraging people to wrap around foster families,” says Kristin Allender, Executive Director of Tennessee Kids Belong.
“While it has been a tough year for everyone. I think that this is a wonderful time for child welfare because it has shown that no matter what is thrown at us, we are going to show up for these kids and make sure they are safe,” says Beau Skelly, Regional General Council for DCS.
One local family says they haven’t let fear of the pandemic rattle their love for fostering. In fact, they even adopted one of their foster kids in August.
“It’s really important to not let fear of a pandemic hold you back from supporting others because these kids are in our communities. They go to school with your kids. They go to daycare with your kids. It doesn’t make them any less local just because they are foster kids,” says Emily Graffius, Foster Mom.
The big sister in the foster family says seeing how their family impacts a child’s life, makes fostering worth it.
“I really like seeing how they are at the start and over time how we help them. I like how we can give them stuff and love them as if they were already my brother and sister,” says Annabelle Graffius, Foster sibling.
For more information on how you can become involved with fostering a child, click here.