TRI-CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) As May marks National Foster Care Month, the demand for foster families in our region and across the country in on the rise.
In Tennessee and Virginia children who are not safe in their homes are entering the foster system every single day at a high rate. A lack of parents in the system is leaving thousands with no where to go.
There is always a constant need for foster parents, but the coronavirus pandemic is not helping; and foster advocates in our region say it might be making the problem worse.
“We’ve had to date 13 foster kids in our house,” says Christy Valys, of Greene County.
She is also a co-president of the Greene County Foster Parent Association. For Valys and her husband, opening their family home to kids in need is a way of life.
“Fostering is unbelievably rewarding. It is one of the most rewarding things I think we have ever done,” says Valys.
She and her husband are currently fostering four siblings who were removed from their home this year. They also have two biological children and one adopted daughter, who they first fostered.
“It is definitely not easy. I know a lot of people say they couldn’t do it because they don’t want to get attached, but that’s what these kids need. They need someone to get attached to them.”,” says Valys.
Right now a result of the coronavirus crisis and “stay at home” orders is that more children are left to fend for themselves in unsafe homes; and more children are entering the foster system.
“Unfortunately with the pandemic we are seeing less foster parents and more of a need, which is scary,” says Valys.
The United Methodist Family Services, a Virginia non-profit, trains foster parents. They fear a shortage of foster parents could be down the line, when there already were not enough to begin with.
“Right now especially with the pandemic there are more financial instabilities with families, more domestic violence, abuse and neglect. Because of those unfortunate circumstances this is where we need more foster parents, now more than ever,” says Amera Ghanem, a UMFS family coordinator for the Southwest Virginia region.
The organization has opened up all online, virtual training so families do not have to wait until the pandemic is over if they feel called to foster.
“We’re worried that in that 6 month wait to become an approved foster parent, to meet all the requirements, there is gonna be a gap in the system when we need homes now,” says Ghanem.
Needing homes is something the dedicated advocates of the Isaiah 117 House know best.
“We’ve never closed our doors because we can’t, because the need is so great. We have children in one of our homes every single day,” says founder Ronda Paulson.
Founded here in the Tri-Cities, there are multiple “Isaiah 117” homes that give children a comfortable and safe play to stay as they transition into their foster placements.
“If they come into the foster care system knowing it’s not their fault, they are not in trouble, which is what we try to accomplish here, that could totally change their future,” says Paulson.
Those at the Isaiah 117 house see the need first-hand.
“It is our calling to take care of these children. We should never have a shortage of foster parents,” says Paulson.
Paulson believes what fostering comes down to is being the one person that can change even just one life. That’s how her family, and the Valys family, approach every day life with their foster children.
“We try to let these kids know that even though they may feel like nobody in the world loves them, Jesus loves them. And that is super important to us,” says Valys.
For more information on online training sessions through UMFS, click here.
Details about the work of the Isaiah 117 House, and their constant expansion across the state and country, can be found here.
If you believe a child has been abused or neglected, please call the Tennessee Child Abuse Hotline at 1-877-237-0004 and report the abuse.
Call child protective services in Virginia at 800- 552-7096.