Photo Credit: Public Domain
Published May 21, 2021
The Tennessee Conservative Staff –
Governor Bill Lee and first lady Maria Lee recently announced a plan in which the governor’s office will team up with the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services and two nonprofit organizations in an effort to make the state a leader in helping children in the foster care system.
As a part of this collaboration, the partnership has launched an app called Foster Friendly. The app will help foster families to connect with local organizations that provide community resources. Families will have access to discount, special events, and community support in their area.
The app also gives businesses the opportunity to present themselves as “foster friendly” or to show appreciation to those caring for some of the state’s most vulnerable children. The app is available on both Android and IOS platforms.
According to Lee, there are currently almost 8,000 children in the foster care system in Tennessee.
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The new program, Tennessee Fosters Hope, will allow these groups to work together to provide every child with an opportunity to thrive. It is a partnership between DCS, Tennessee Kids Belong, and Show Hope.
Maria Lee stressed the need for communities to rally to support those serving as foster parents.
“It’s hard enough to get foster parents and it is, while very rewarding, it’s very challenging,” Maria Lee said. “So if you can go into this and say, ‘I can do this, but I’m going to need some help,’ and realize that there’s communities and businesses and churches and neighbors that are willing to come alongside and help, it [might] entice someone to go. ‘OK, I can do that. I’ve got a support network.’”
While there are many different organizations that provide support for children in the system, it is often difficult for foster families to find them due to a lack of coordination.
“There are so many great groups that do things, and everything can be siloed so when we do the collective impact program where we bring everybody together,” said Kristin Allender, executive director of Tennessee Kids Belong. “You know, a rising tide lifts all ships. Everyone can do their work and move towards impact faster, and we’ll see much more success working together.”
Tennessee Kids Belong works as a liason between community group and social workers to provide for the needs of foster children.
“Businesses can become foster friendly in offering jobs or internships to some of those teenagers, or maybe they’ve aged out of foster care, and we’ll work closely with them (businesses).” Allender said. “We’ll work with them. We’ll provide trauma training to set everybody up for success.”
Show Hope, an organization started by Stephen Curtis Chapman and wife Mary Beth Chapman, also provides assistance by offering grants to foster families. These grants can help cover adoption expenses, medical needs, therapy, and other needed services.
Chapman discussed the need for groups to work together to impact lives of foster children.
“Through our personal story of adoption and our continued work with Show Hope, Mary Beth and I remain committed to vulnerable children and to the families who are welcoming them into their hearts and homes. The collaborative efforts of TN Fosters Hope will help elevate the quality of care across our great state for children and families impacted by foster care and adoption, and we encourage everyone, particularly churches and faith communities, to get involved by becoming educated and finding ways to help meet those unique needs,” Chapman said in a statement.