Need for foster parents rises during opioid crisis

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The opioid crisis may be to blame for another growing problem—the need for more foster parents.

Youth Villages saying the opioid epidemic in Tennessee has caused a significant increase in the number of children entering the foster care system. 

WATE 6 On Your Side’s Elizabeth Kuebel spoke with the organization’s Knoxville office and local parents about their mission to help.

Right now Youth Villages says there are almost 8,000 children in foster care in Tennessee, and less than 4,000 foster families willing to provide homes for foster children.

But one local family we met has opened up their hearts and doors.

Jill and Prentice Elliott are parents to Avery and Grace, but were previously foster parents to several other children.

“A lot of kids came through our house. We had a lot of good experiences with them,” Prentice said. 

It was Jill’s idea, to give love and give back. 

“We knew that there were a lot of kids in need and that we had a home and space and love to give. That’s how we wanted to grow our family,” she said.

The nonprofit Youth Villages is looking for others to do the same. 

“We need foster parents. They can be single, they can be married, cohabitating. They can have children, not have children. Anyone,” Amy Sublett said.

It’s an urgent need that Sublett said was propelled by something in particular.

“With the opioid epidemic, we’ve seen just parents aren’t able to appropriately or safely care for the children,” she said.

She’s urging anyone who can –  to help out.

And a message coming from the people who have: “It was more rewarding on our side than on theirs. We got more out of it I’m sure than they did. It’s not hard, it’s not expensive, there is maybe a little bit of work involved in terms of classes and what not, but if it’s something that somebody is thinking about, I would definitely recommend it,” said Prentice.

If you’d like to learn more about becoming a foster parent, Youth Villages is hosting an information session on June 1.

It’ll take place from 9 a.m. to noon at their Nashville office, located at 3310 Perimeter Hill Drive.

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