Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

DCS making progress--Let's not slow them down with foster care and adoption bans

Gail Kerr devotes today's column to the progress that the Tennessee Department of Children's Services. She summarizes the findings of a recent report:

Among the things Tennesseans should be most proud of:

• Kids are no longer shuffled between dozens of foster families.

• The caseload of social workers has gone from 40 kids on average to 20. When the mess started in the late 1990s, caseworkers sometimes had 60 kids under their care.

• There are now 7,500 kids in state custody, from a high of 11,000 in 2004.

• The state has placed 90 percent of children in foster care with families instead of group homes or institutions. It's kept 85 percent of siblings together.

We're already hearing rumblings, though nothing definite, of renewed legislative efforts to prevent gays and lesbians or unmarried couples from becoming foster and adoptive parents. Obviously, we would oppose those efforts regardless of whether the Department were making progress. But at a time when the Department is doing such a good job and when the State budget can't bear added expense, I think a good neutral argument can made for scuttling restrictive legislation. Let's continue to focus on getting more children into loving homes.

1 comment:

vaughn94 said...

There also needs to be some consideration to the fact that people who can't or don't want to foster/be foster parents are not eligible to adopt any of Tennessee's kids.
Furthermore, if you ever have your home closed by DCS due to breaking a policy, you will never be approved or given a second chance by DCS to foster or be approved as a foster/adoptive home. What that means is that you will never be able to adopt (even from another state) as long as you are a resident of Tennessee. When a Tennessee resident loses the ability to foster, they lose the ability to adopt. That needs to be changed. People in Tennessee should be able to adopt only in this state.
There also needs to be clearer and more defined regulations set forth by DCS, and more training on those policies and procedures. Foster parents who mess us, especially unwittingly, (as long as it's not due to a case of abuse) need to have the chance to make amends, learn from their mistakes, and in doing so be better parents and foster parents. There needs to be more corrective procedures put in place for foster parents then just being closed and thrown away.
DCS gives parents retraining and help when they lose their children. That same consideration should be given to foster parents.

We can't have children of our own. Because of a mistake I made our home was closed. We have tried over the course of the last year and half to learn from my misktake and be better for it, to get our home opened back up and be able to adopt and fill our extra 2 bedrooms with children, and give those children love and a future. We were good foster parents, even though our main goal was to adopt. DCS will not work with us, and will not give us a second chance. Workers with DCS have also told us that not only can we not foster for them, a home closed by DCS like ours, can't foster for any agency in Tennessee, nor adopt. We were also told that we can't adopt from another state because our home has been closed "not in good standing" and that we can't adopt privately either. We, according to Tennessee Department of Children's Services, will never be parents while we live in Tennessee. DCS would never do this to a natural parent, and yet it would do this to a husband and wife who logged almost 60 hours of training in on their second year of foster parenting (when you only have to have 15 hours per parent), who participated in 90% of the child and family team meetings and permanency plan meetings, who fostered over 14 children in less than a year and half, who attended fund raisers and in many instances were only two of a handful of other foster parents from our region who attended, who participated in every resource parent association meeting in their area. If foster parents aren't important enough to help strenthen their weaknesses, and retrain when necessary, that speaks volumes to the respect that they are afforded by Tennessee's DCS and that bothers me.
We may never have our home opened back up, but it is my hope that our experience may keep another home from unwittingly being closed.

What really hangs in my craw is the fact that this has made it impossible for us to adopt. That is not right, and we feel violated in our rights as a human beings and potential parents. A husband and wife who have no criminal record and no history of abuse should not have to move out of Tennessee to another state in order to adopt. We may end up having to do just this, and all the publicity in the world may not help turn our plight around, but it may help change policies and procedures and not make it impossible on future couples who can't work with the Tennessee Department of Children's Services.