Tag Archives: Tennessee Department of Children Services

Church hopes to match kids with foster families


church outreach

WAYNESBORO — Sonya Payne remembers her best birthday ever.

It was in 2010, the day she legally adopted her foster daughter Ariel Simone Payne, 16.

Ariel wasn’t the first child that Payne has fostered. In fact, Payne estimates that she’s legally fostered 40 children since 1993, and taken in over 70, even if only temporarily.

“That’s why we call her superwoman,” said Ariel’s adoptive sister Taimonique Payne, 15 and a half years old.

Payne decided to become a foster parent while working with battered women, and seeing the effect it had on both the women and children.

“It was too much,” Payne said. “I told my husband, we have to do something to help these kids.”

She read about her first foster child in the newspaper in 1993 and the rest is history.

Even with families like the Paynes, there are still local children in the foster care system that do not currently have homes and are at risk of aging out of the system, which severely affects their chances of success once they become adults, said Jennifer Eccles, foster parent and member of the mission team at First Baptist Church in Waynesboro. There are 163 kids in foster homes locally, but 14 that don’t have somewhere to call home.

That’s why the church decided to hold a summit about foster care, with a panel of foster care workers, parents and adopted teenagers, to inform the community about the need for more participation in the foster care system.

The summit was Sunday afternoon and about 25 people attended, Eccles said.

“The church feels very strongly that we have a calling to help these kids in our community,” said the mom of six. “They need families.”

One of the main focuses of the summit was on the need for care for older children and children with siblings, specifically, Eccles said. Removing the stigma that older children come with more problems is key.

“This is not about bad behavior,” Eccles said of why children end up in the foster care system. “It’s because of abuse or neglect.”

Both Ariel and Taimonique spoke about being adopted and what they would tell other foster parents if they could.

“Never give up on your adopted kids,” Taimonique said. They may have difficult behavior and difficulty adjusting, but never to give up.

For more information about foster parenting call Jennifer Edson or Heather Hudnall at Shenandoah Valley Social Services at 540-245-5800.

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Support Safe Housing for All Youth Aging Out of Foster Care

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Imagine a world where your child is forced to leave your home at age 18. You can no longer provide the love, support and roof you worked so hard for throughout your child’s life. On his or her 18th birthday, your child must instantly transition into adulthood with little more than a suitcase of their belongings. Would your child be ready?

This is the reality for too many of the nearly 10,000 children and adolescents who have been removed from their families and placed in the foster care system because of abuse or neglect.  They enter the foster care system in a time of crisis only to be kicked out at age 18, unprepared for the crises to come.

It is unacceptable that in a society where approximately half of all youth live with their parents until age 24, we expect those who have experienced PTSD-inducing childhood trauma to be the ones surviving completely on their own at age 18 – with no family to fall back on when things get rough. And what happens to these youth? Study after study demonstrates that they end up homeless. In its most recent annual survey, the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) estimated that one of every eleven youth from foster care will experience being homeless.

The Mockingbird Society, in collaboration with community partners, foster parents and legislators, is laser focused on reversing the longstanding pattern of Washington discharging youth from foster care into homelessness.  This pattern is not unique to Washington. In fact, it is a national epidemic.  The NAEH has rightly identified stopping foster care systems from this practice as a key strategy for ending youth homelessness in America.

In 2006, Washington established the Foster Care to 21 pilot program thanks to forward-thinking legislators. This program allowed up to 150 youth to remain in foster care to age 21 to pursue their post-secondary education.  The evaluation results are consistent with national research as well as what most parents and grandparents might say: youth who had safe housing and other supports did significantly better than those who were literally on their own.  Not only did they reduce their negative behaviors such as stealing, early parenting, and reliance on public assistance, but they also increased their academic achievement, gained valuable work experience, and began the successful transition to healthy adulthood. In fact, for every Washington tax dollar invested in this service, our community received a return on investment of $1.35.  Ensuring youth have safe housing to utilize as a foundation for achievement makes both fiscal and common sense.

Thanks to the bi-partisan support of our Legislature, we have made great gains ensuring foster youth have the opportunity to remain in foster care to age 21.  Currently, youth who pursue their secondary or post-secondary education are eligible to remain in foster care to age 21.  But certain populations don’t get this support.

Now, we are asking our elected-leaders and community members alike to provide this opportunity to those youth who need it most. Current proposed legislation (Extended Foster Care HB 1302/SB 5405) would extend this support to the remaining youth who are not able, or not yet ready, for the educational track.  This includes youth who have serious medical issues including cognitive or physical disabilities, youth who have significant barriers to employment or academia, and youth who are working part time but still unable to afford full independence.

Earlier this year I testified in favor of HB 1302 with a courageous young man with a seizure disorder which would have qualified him for Extended Foster Care had this legislation been in effect when he turned 18. He modestly said that his condition made things more complicated after leaving care, and that pursuing his education or employment was not a realistic option for him at 18. Soon after his testimony he had a minor seizure, right in the hearing room. Are we really going to kick youth like him out at age 18?

Imagining a world where we cannot provide our children the support they need to be successful, independent adults is a nightmare. The moment the state decides to remove a child from their home, that child becomes our collective responsibility as a community. As parents, our care and support guides our own children safely into young adulthood. Our commitment should be no less for youth in foster care.

I call on legislators and community members alike to fulfill this responsibility and support Extended Foster Care, House Bill 1302 and Senate Bill 5405.

DCF unveils ‘Don’t Miss the Signs’ of abuse campaign

Foster Care Kids Need Love Too


Who should report the suspected abuse of a child in Florida?


The Department of Children and Families has teamed up with sexual-abuse survivor Lauren Book to get that message out to the public through a new multimedia awareness campaign called “Don’t Miss the Signs.”

“We not only have a moral obligation to report child abuse, we have a legal obligation to report child abuse,” DCF Secretary David Wilkins said at a kick-off media event Monday.

In the past, only so-called “professional reporters,” such as doctors and teachers were required to report suspected abuse to the state’s child abuse hotline. But since a sweeping new reporting law went into effect last October, all Florida residents are obligated to make the call if they suspect a child is being abused — including abuse by a parent or primary caregiver as well as a coach, teacher or neighbor.

DCF Tallahassee

The first month the law was enacted, calls to the hotline increased 16 percent. While DCF receives about 300,000 hotline calls each year, Wilkins said thousands of cases still go unreported.

So far, no one has been charged under the new law with a first-degree misdemeanor for knowingly failing to make a report, but he and Book stressed the importance of community members to step up.

“At the end of the day, it’s a call to protect children,” said Book, who, as a teen, was sexually abused for years by her nanny. She plans a second 1,500-mile walk around the state this spring to raise awareness of the problem. “All you are doing is calling someone to come out to investigate. You are saving a life. Kids don’t have to suffer as long as I did.”

The $500,000 multimedia awareness campaign, funded through a $1.5 million appropriation to DCF last year for reporting system improvements, will feature television and radio public service announcements, billboards, posters and brochures describing the signs of abuse as well as a website, DontMissTheSigns.org that includes an online petition pledging to report abuse.

Book, who created the foundation Lauren’s Kids, and developed a kindergarten curriculum intended to prevent childhood sexual abuse, urged state residents to sign the petition and do their part.

“All Floridians need to know the signs and know what to look out for,” Book said. “We need all Floridians to commit their eyes and voices to protect our kids.”

To report abuse call the hotline at 800-962-2873 or file a report at DontMissTheSigns.org

Volunteers needed for Foster Care Review Board

Forward In Faith

Montgomery County, TN – The Foster Care Review Board is seeking volunteers to serve on its boards. Board members make recommendations to the Juvenile Court Judge or Magistrate that is overseeing each child custody case.

Board members are asked to attend one board meeting per month. The boards usually meet on the 1st and 2nd Tuesdays and the 4th Monday of each month.

Foster Care Review Boards are set up by law to review the cases of children who are in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Children Services.

For more information or to volunteer to serve on the Foster Care Review Board, contact Howard Johnson at 931.648.7686.