Bagley explained to those gathered at Thursday’s Kiwanis luncheon this would be the first in a series of talks about foster care in the area.
NaCole Harris, linkage resource coordinator with the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, gave an introduction on foster care to Kiwanians and fielded their questions.
“The main objective, in regards to foster care, is reunification, if at all possible,” Harris explained. “We get together with different family supports ... we come together in a child and family team meeting to discuss what needs to happen, or what type of supports we can bring into the home to get those children back with their parents.”
Harris told those gathered the organization works closely with the parents in an effort to rectify the problems that resulted in DCS action.
However, eventually, if problems persist or cases of serious abuse are discovered the children can be placed in foster care for their own safety.
Decisions on child welfare are a collaborative effort between DCS, judges and local Foster Care Review Boards. This cooperation helps provide the system with more balance, according to Harris.
When asked about cases related to drug abuse, both Harris and Bagley, a member of the Bradley County Foster Care Review Board, said numbers were very high in the area.
“At times over 50 percent of our cases are drug-related,” Bagley said.
“The majority of these are our substance-abuse cases. That’s probably what I saw 80 percent of the time,” elaborated Harris.
According to numbers presented by Harris, as of June 9, there were 147 children in Bradley County in state custody. Out of those children, 126 come from dependent/neglected households, meaning households where parents have committed some offense that has resulted in the removal of the child.
“These are such wonderful kids,” said Harris. “I mean just light up [wonderful]. All they want is that attention and that love and for somebody to take care of them.”
DCS provides services for children from birth to 18 and even those in foster care over the age of 18 can enter into programs that help them pay for things like a college education.
Harris also reviewed the strenuous procedure foster parents enter into when taking on the responsibility. Potential foster parents are given training in crisis management, communication and how to relate to the foster child — regardless of if they are related to the child or not.
Bagley stated he felt the next great step in protecting the state’s youth would be to establish better communication between the Foster Care Review boards in order to lobby for changes in legislation that could offer children even more protection.