NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — It’s no secret the Tennessee Dept. of Children’s Services is struggling.
“There’s just not enough people, the process isn’t efficient,” future foster parent Carson Yates said. “People are getting stuck.”
Yates and his wife have been trying to become foster parents for a long time. Since November 2021, to be exact.
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“It’s been heartbreaking that we have empty beds in our house that foster kids currently sleeping in the office could be at,” he said. “It takes weekly follow-up emails, it takes calls. We had to escalate our case several times, so really the burden’s on you to move yourself along in this process.”
The pair finally got approved in late November, exactly a year after they submitted their initial application. But the process of getting there has been arduous.
For example, on March 18, 2022, they were told their initial foster application had been lost and never processed. Two months later, they had to schedule three fingerprinting appointments over the span of two more months because they say their initial two had never been scheduled at the correct locations.
“It’s really heartbreaking that many parents like us get stuck in the process,” Yates said. “We know of several that have been so discouraged they dropped out.”
He wanted to be very clear—they don’t blame the department itself.
“I don’t want to put this on the DCS workers because the people we’ve interacted with, they’ve really been amazing and really heroes for working in such a difficult system for very little reward,” Yates said.
With that being said, it’s very clear there is a need for more DCS funding – something Gov. Bill Lee (R-Tennessee) acknowledged himself.
“Workforce challenges in DCS are not unique to Tennessee,” he said to reporters at an availability last Friday. “But they are a Tennessee problem, and we have to address them.”
Democrats have urged Lee to fix the problem immediately, rather than wait for the funding to kick in when the new fiscal year starts in July.
Reporters asked Lee if he intended on taking some sort of action before the new year.
“We’re working on it right now,” he said. “We’re working on how to fix this problem every day.”
It creates a long journey, though Yates will tell you it was still worth every step. “We’re excited, we’re relieved,” Yates said. “We’re so excited to accept our first placement, which may come as soon as this week.”
News 2 reached out to DCS to ask for any comment or interview on the subject. As of the publishing of this article, the agency has not responded.
The now-future foster parents provided us with a complete timeline on their journey to becoming foster parents. You can see every step below.
11/22/2021: Submitted initial fostering paperwork
12/16/2021: Attended the Informational Meeting
1/6/2022: Started TN KEY Foster Classes
2/21/2022: Complete TN KEY Foster Classes
3/11/2022: Asked for dates and times for fingerprinting and for background information to process an out-of-state background check
3/18/2022: Received notice that initial fostering paperwork had never been processed and had been lost:
- Calls to case manager
- Calls to main phone line
- Call to the legislator’s office turned into a call with a DCS director, which lead to a fingerprinting appointment being scheduled
5/15/2022: Fingerprinting appointment – scheduled place did not do fingerprinting
- Fingerprinting appointment – scheduled place did not do fingerprinting (same as the previous week)
- Calls to the case manager
7/12/2022: Fingerprinting appointment took place
7/29/2022: All documentation submitted (with fingerprinting docs)
- Followed up to request a home study
- Home study referral took place
- Asked if out-of-state background check had been completed
8/11/2022: Received out-of-state background check documents to complete
8/18/2022: Returned out-of-state background check documents
8/19/2022: Home Study Interview 1
8/19/2022: Follow up on state background check documents with no reply
8/26/2022: Home Study Interview 2
8/28/2022: Home Study walkthrough complete
8/29/2022: Follow up on state background check documents with no reply
9/15/2022: Follow up on state background check documents with no reply
9/22/2022: Called the out-of-state background check number. Documents were never sent out of state. Called the DCS mainline and reported that no documents were sent
9/23/2022: Out-of-state background check documents were returned
9/26/2022: Home study documents were submitted to DCS *needed out of state background check to submit
10/19/2022: Reached out to case manager and no reply
10/20/2022: Reached out to case manager’s supervisor and no reply
10/24/2022: Received notice that we cannot be approved due to a technical build: “We recently had a new TFACTS build that is affecting the approval of foster homes. Our IT department has been informed of this defect and once they get this matter corrected, I can continue the approval process for your foster home.”
11/3/2022: Talked to Executive Director of Child Programs for DCS regarding our timeline for approval. Followed up in email on 11/4/2022
11/15/2022: Received this update from the Executive Director of Child Programs: “It looks like your foster home is in approved status but had not made it to our Resource Home Eligibility Team (RHET) for final vetting. Ms. XXXX did upload the packet yesterday to send to the team. XXXX, who serves on my team as the Director of Foster Care, is reaching out to ensure it gets processed quickly.”
11/16/2022: Received information that our foster home was approved and we were fully licensed!
11/22/2022: Had onboarding meeting with DCS team