JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — May is Foster Care Awareness Month, and there’s a growing need for foster parents in Tennessee.
According to Tennessee Kids Belong, nearly 8,000 children are in foster care in the state, almost half of whom could legally be adopted right now. The rest just need a temporary, safe and loving place before they can return home to their biological families.
Youth Villages is just one of the many organizations in our area that works with foster children and families.
They work with the many people and systems that make up the foster network, from the children and their biological families, to the foster families and court systems. Youth Villages representatives said collaboration is key for creating the best outcome for all involved, especially the children.
Aisha Ward with Youth Villages had advice for anyone thinking about fostering a child.
“Another misconception is the support they’re going to get, they’re going to get a lot of support from staff and from other foster parents,” said Ward.
Kim Hoyle has been a foster mother on and off since 1978. She and her husband, Alvin, are in the process of adopting right now. She has worked with Youth Villages for two years now.
“This is the hardest thing we’ve ever done because you’re raising someone else’s child by someone else’s rules, but it’s the most rewarding thing,” said Hoyle.
Both women shared stories of the lasting impacts they’ve seen from the foster care system.
“One of our foster mothers shared with me this Mother’s Day. She sent me a picture, and it was a picture of flowers that she received from a mother of some children that she served and the note, it just said ‘Thank you for being another mother to my boys when they needed it the most,'” said Ward.
“We had a girl who lived with us, and we always teach the children life skills, and gardening is one of them. She hated gardening. So when she aged out, she got married, and she called us about a year later and was so excited she had her own garden,” said Hoyle.
They also wanted to dispel any misconceptions about foster care and encourage people to consider fostering teens. Ward had a piece of wisdom shared by one of the teenagers she worked with.
“She said ‘Being a teenager is awkward enough, being a teenager in foster care is even harder.’ And so when we think about it like that, our view totally changes. They’re just teenagers trying to manage the situation,” said Ward.
”Most everybody when we try to tell them ‘Why not be a foster parent?’ Their answer is ‘Oh, I couldn’t let the child go.’ And the first few times, it is really hard, but then you learn what your place is, you’re trying to help the child with it’s future,” said Hoyle.
Ward emphasized you don’t have to be a foster parent to support foster kids and their families.
”So many people can support the foster care program without becoming a foster parent. We’ve asked people to use their social media, their platforms, be a voice for the kids we serve and their families,” Ward said.
Youth Villages hosts information sessions weekly. For more on Youth Villages and their services click here.
Information from The Department of Children’s Services can be found here.