Becoming a Foster Parent in Tennessee
Foster care is the term used for a system in which a minor child (a ward) has been removed from their current living situation is placed in another. This could be an institution, group home, or the private home of a state-certified caregiver (a "foster parent") who is compensated by the state in which they live. Foster care is intended to be a short term situation until a permanent placement can be made.
The state, via the family court and child protection agency, stand in loco parentis (acting as the parent) to the minor, making all legal decisions, while the foster parent is responsible for the day-to-day care of said minor.
The preferable permanent placement option is that an adoption will occur by a family member who is a relative such as an aunt, uncle, or grandparent. If no related family member is willing or able to adopt, the next preference is for the child to be adopted by the foster parents or by someone else involved in the child's life (such as a teacher or coach). If neither above option are available, the child may then be adopted by someone who is not known to the child.
If none of these options are viable for the minor the plan may be to enter OPPLA (Other Planned Permanent Living Arrangement). This option allows the child to stay in custody of the state and the child can stay placed in a foster home, with a relative, or a long term care facility (for children with development disabilities, physical disabilities or mental disabilities).
What are the Requirements for Becoming a Foster Parent?
You must be at least 21 years of age. You can be single or married, with or without children of your own. The foster parent must be in good health and a resident of the state of Tennessee. Personal references must be provided by the prospective parent.
Household and Financial Requirements
You must have room in your home for the child. You may rent or own the home. Whether you are or are not employed is not an issue, as long as you are able to meet your own financial needs, according to the Tennessee Department of Children's Services (DCS).
You must complete a training course and self-assessment process called Parents as Tender Healers (PATH). PATH helps parents understand children. It also helps families learn how to successfully overcome obstacles using proven behavioral management skills. This training is provided by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.
In order to determine the living arrangements are in the child's best interest, the Tennessee Foster Parent's Bill of Rights requires a licensed child placing agency to conduct a home study. The agency will evaluate the basics of the house such as cleanliness and fire safety but might also include the neighborhood. All information, including references, medical, and financial records, will be verified at this time.
As a future foster parent you are encouraged to continue with your daily routines, displaying you own family values during the home evaluation.
How can The Law Office of William J. Taylor help?
Bill can help you with the fostering process by assisting in the following:
Game plan: We can help you decide on an agency, private or state, that would best suit your needs.
Paperwork: We can help guide you through filling out the applications and getting all of your required documentation in order.
Home Study Readyness: We can help you understand what details are going to play the biggest part in being selected to foster a child in your home.
Terminology: Often times, the required paperwork may be confusing. We can help you make sense of the “legal jargon” that is used.
Adoption: If you should decide later on that you would like to be a permanent family to your foster child, we can also help you through that process.
We would love to help you! Call Bill or a member of his staff, at (865) 694-6155 or e-mail us at