If you are considering opening your home to foster children in need, you are naturally wanting to know what the requirements are to be a foster parent in Tennessee.
Requirements to be a foster parent in Tennessee include attending an orientation, passing a background check for all adults in the home, and participating in a foster care preparation course. A home study will be conducted, and one must be at least 21 years of age.
Sadly, we have a shortage of foster homes in many states. The need for foster parents is great, as many children need a safe, loving home.
Children are innocent participants in life’s challenges, and there are times when the state of Tennessee must remove a child from their home until a solution to an existing problem is resolved. Hat’s off to you for considering welcoming a foster child into your home.
Requirements to be a Foster Parent in Tennessee
There are several requirements that one must meet to be eligible to be a foster parent in the state of Tennessee.
Requirements to be a Foster Parent in Tennessee:
1. You are at least 21 years of age.
2. You can provide a safe, comfortable home.
3. Your home meets the minimum requirements.
4. Space for the child and his or her belongings.
5. Must be financially stable.
6. All members of your family are in good health.
7. Adults at home will submit a background check.
8. Being married is not required.
9. You must be married for more than one year if married.
As with any home with children, a foster family home should provide children with an adequate, balanced, and appetizing food diet.
Comfortable and stylish clothing that fits well is also to be expected, as well as shelter, safety and education.
Foster parents are expected to encourage the foster child to participate in activities and events that will help the child develop their social and intellectual skills.
Academic education is also excepted in maintaining good health, as well as human physical development and function.
If a child comes from a particular religion or has a given moral compass, foster parents are strongly encouraged to support and respect such practices.
Adolescents must be provided the opportunity to train for a vocation, as well as day-to-day living experiences in community living such as work, religious beliefs, budget handling, and social skills.
Foster parents are relied upon to provide transportation to and from any mandated counseling appointments, court hearings, and to also comply with biological parent visits.
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Foster Care Training in Tennessee
Typically, foster care training happens just before or during your application process. This training is mandatory, as foster parents must understand the traumas that foster children go through.
Learning how to handle these types of traumas and support the foster child as they go through their life-changing experience is crucial and will help you be the best foster parent you can be.
Attending these training classes also provides a wonderful opportunity to talk with other prospective foster parents, and share experiences and information.
These training classes are required to become a licensed foster parent and will help establish. If you will be co-parenting, both parties are required to attend and fully complete the training.
You will gain the following skills by attending this required foster care training:
- You will become prepared to handle each child’s unique circumstances to be the best support you can possibly be during this time of trauma in their life.
- Appropriate methods of discipline.
- Cultural sensitivity.
- Attachment, separation, and loss issues.
- Home and child safety.
- The impact of fostering on the foster parents’ own families.
- Better understand your role and responsibilities as the foster parent.
- Learning more about the foster care system will ensure you understand the proper communication channels within the foster care network.
- Learn more about the agency policies and procedures.
- Your questions will be answered so that you know what you are and are not permitted to do with and for your foster child. For example, can you go on vacation with your foster child?
Foster Care Home Study in Tennessee
Foster care agencies have the responsibility of ensuring the safety and security of every foster child.
This means that each placement must involve a thorough assessment of the personal characteristics of the prospective foster parents and others living in the home.
The home environment must be inspected to confirm the home meets all safety and environmental regulations, and to confirm the home is comfortable and has the required space that a child and their belongings.
Home Preparation Checklist
A state agency representative will come to your home to get to know more about you, your family, and your home environment. It would make sense to be as prepared as possible to ensure a smooth and timely home study evaluation.
Your social worker will want to conduct individual interviews with each person in your household. This includes unrelated residents residing in your home.
Basic common-sense cleaning, perhaps the type of cleaning one would do that is often referred to as spring cleaning would be recommended.
Do not worry, however; as they will not be going through your lingerie drawer, nor will they walk around with a white glove inspecting for dust.
It’s normal to be nervous about what seems like an invasion of your privacy. You will feel as though you are under a microscope with nothing left undiscovered in your personal life.
It is important to remember that your foster care home study provider is on your side and will be looking for reasons to approve you rather than deny you.
To help you with becoming prepared, I’ve put together a home preparation checklist that will help you feel more in control and prepared for your home study inspection.
- Driver’s license and/or government-issued ID
- Birth certificates
- Social security cards
- Tax records
- Medical records
- Immigration documents – Proof of citizenship
- Proof of income
- Something in writing from your employer showing your length of employment
- Immunizations up-to-date
- Pet vaccinations up-to-date
- Autobiographical statement
Home Inspection Readiness
- Smoke alarms and new batteries
- Carbon monoxide detectors and new batteries
- Working heating and cooling systems
- Stocked first aid kit
- Safe and working appliances
- Childproof sharp corners such as on furniture
- Locked windows and screens
- Gates on stairs
- Cover electrical outlets
- Firearms are locked and out of reach
- No led paint
- Guardrails on decks and pools
- Safe yard
Topics to Be Ready to Discuss
- Reasons for wanting to adopt a child
- Your views on parenting
- How was your childhood, and would you parent differently?
- What do you hope for your adopted child?
- What do you know about the foster care process?
- How do you feel about cultural diversity?
- How would you handle transracial family dynamics?
- Are you educated on the variety of traumas a child may likely have suffered?
- Be ready to discuss your job
It would be wise to address the above checklist as soon as possible. The more on top of your game that you appear to your foster care home study caseworker, the better off you are.
Being prepared and organized will help you shine.
Remember that even though the home study process may feel a bit intrusive, there will be a day when it will be over.
Keep your eye on the prize and know it will all be worth the time and effort in the end.
Foster Care Background and Finger Print Checks
All members of a prospective foster care household must undergo a thorough background check as well as provide fingerprints.
Naturally, this is expected and required when opening a home to a foster child. This background check must show no convictions for certain crimes or records of child abuse or neglect.
It is important to keep in mind that most states are not looking for perfect foster parents. Not all infractions on a background check automatically mean disqualification.
What Are the Challenges of Being a Foster Parent?
Challenges of being a foster parent can include supporting children with behavioral problems due to neglect, abuse, attachment disorders, and abandonment. The stresses from communicating with caseworkers, teachers, birth families, and counselors can also take their toll.
Even though potential foster parents are screened and get some training from foster care organizations, being a foster parent to a child comes with its own set of obstacles.
Foster families’ training and readiness to take on the duty of fostering vary drastically from state to state.
Most child development specialists believe that putting a child with a foster family rather than a group home or an institution is significantly more advantageous to the child’s development and also far more cost-effective.
Children in foster care stay in the system for an average of 5 months, however some stay for considerably longer.
Foster parenting is described as a period of time when a child’s biological family is unable to care for him or her due to death, sickness, jail, abandonment, neglect, or war.
Foster parenting can be gratifying for both the foster family and the foster child if foster parents enter with a broad understanding of the field and the capacity to collaborate with the aforementioned persons and agencies.
Tips For a Better Fostering Experience
- Stay organized and on top of all scheduled appointments.
- Practice your patience.
- Learn ways to destress so you can be the best version of yourself for the children.
- Never say anything negative about or to a foster child’s birth parents.
- Become as educated as possible to better understand the trauma, loss, and grief that all foster children suffer.
- Be open to participating in a foster parent support group.
Can Foster Parents Take a Break?
Foster parents can take a break and are supported by respite foster caregivers who temporarily care for another family’s foster children. Respite care, also referred to as short-term foster care, can be used when a foster family needs to go on a trip or simply needs to take a break.
Other parents can hire a babysitter or leave their children with their grandparents for a night out on the town. Foster parents, especially those who are fostering children with problematic behaviors and/or special needs, may not always have this option.
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About the Author:
Trina Greenfield is passionate about providing information to those considering growing their family. Trina does not run an adoption agency. Her website is strictly information-based, so she is able to provide unbiased, credible information that she hopes will help guide those along their journey.