“If no intervention is done then children are often left in environments with drugs and abuse,” Sapp said. “It is cyclical and eventually the child can become involved in the same things as the adult. This is a situation that resource parents [foster parents] can get in the middle of to break that cycle.”
Added Sapp, “It is a wonderful, very important, very difficult job.”
Sapp is part of the department’s Resource Parent Support. Prospective adoptive, foster, and kinship parents are all refered to as resource parents. Sapp’s job is to help current resource homes maintain approval and to document what occurs in the homes. Carter is a home study writer. Part of her job is to assist prospective resource parents in the home study process from PATH to full approval.
“I tell people I do have the best job because I get paid to be nosy,” Carter shared. “I get to ask all the crazy questions that parents and the system want to know. We want to make sure that children are safe in these homes. And two, we do not want to bring any more trauma to these children.”
These jobs were made to ensure the safety of over 8,000 children in the state’s custody. Carter and Sapp’s focus is the Tennessee Valley Region. This region is basically the counties that surround Hamilton County, including Polk.
Part of ensuring the safety of foster children is the mandatory Parents as Tender Healers training. All adults who are to play a parenting role in a prospective resource parent home must attend. The course is one day a week for eight weeks. If more than one class is missed then the resource parent must enroll again.
“Our home study process is very invasive. It is very intrusive. If you are not used to people getting up in your business, then you have a short amount of time to get used to that,” Carter explained.
The following qualifications must be met to be considered as a resource parent: either single, married, or divorced; may or may not have other children; can own your own home or rent; can work full-time; must be at least 18 years old; must be a Tennessee resident; must be able to meet the financial and emotional needs of your own family and the child.
A resource parent does not need to be full-time, but they must show they can support themselves independently of the money provided for foster kids. According to Sapp, $24 a day is provided for a child ages birth to 11 and for children from ages 12-18 the amount is $27 a day.
“We have some families that do not have custody of their own children and then they try to become a resource parent thinking that we will give them foster kids,” Carter revealed. “Other families come to us thinking we are an adoption agency. Both of these are red flags.”
Added Carter, “Our No. 1 goal is reunification with the birth family. We do have children that are available for adoption, but resource parents need to come in with the mindset of reunification.”
The Department of Children’s Services has about 50 resource homes in Bradley County. The resource parents are given money twice a month for the children and all medical is covered by the state. Carter said the state tries not to incur any costs on the resource parents.
“We are always in a constant state of need,” Sapp revealed. “I don’t think there has ever been a time where we have been full of foster parents. We always stay just ahead of our need.”
For more information on becoming a resource parent, contact Stephen Sapp at 423-728-7902 or the Department of Children’s Services at 877-DCS-KIDS (877-327-5437).
Other Kiwanis business included:
- New member orientation will take place on Wednesday, July 18, at the United Way office. Any members who have joined within the past 12 months are invited to come.
- Members can submit themselves as a Distinguished Kiwanian if five of the following six items are met: perfect attendance, attend a board meeting, attend a service project, attend a fundraiser, attend an interclub or sponsor a new member.
- The July 12 meeting will be at Garden Plaza.