MORRISTOWN, Tenn. (WATE) — May is Foster Care Awareness Month. For a while now, WATE has shared the struggles both the Department of Children’s Services and private foster care organizations have faced, including the lack of foster parents.

Currently, in Tennessee, more than 8,000 children are in foster care. There is nearly half that number of foster parents.

One Morristown couple has been fostering for almost three decades and hopes their story will inspire others to do the same.

“We were married 12 years ago and decided if we ever wanted to have children we could do foster care and we were watching a news show about foster care and how it wasn’t going well and we thought, we could do better than that. So we signed up and got started,” said Mary Molamphy.

Amber Newman, the Clinical Supervisor For Foster Care For Youth Villages in Morristown, stated,”We’re now serving about 36,000 children and families across 23 states.” She added that just in the East Tennessee region, “Youth Villages is serving about 500 of those.” In Morristown, she said they have about 28 fostered youth that they serve. 

The Molamphys began fostering nearly 30 years ago. They’ve adopted four of their foster children but their journey didn’t stop there. All in all, the couple has had 71 full-time foster placements in their home and has had 101 respites.

“It’s been an adventure raising children, and I wouldn’t have skipped it for the world,” Mary said.

Tim added, “There’s been a lot of challenges along the way, a lot of good challenges.”

Mary and Tim said they’re retiring from fostering but laughed and added that “This would be our third time to retire.” They hope others will step up to the plate.

“Mary and Tim are just one example of what it looks like to be foster parents and I think they set a really good example. But we need people from all different backgrounds with different knowledge and different experiences because all of our children are unique and have their own needs,” Newman stated.

It was a story just like this one that got the Molamphys involved with fostering. They hope that sharing their story will get you involved too.

“Children just need parents and that’s a lot of what you’re doing, you’re parenting. So whether that means talking in the middle of the night, or early morning, or driving them to school instead of having them take the bus, or whatever that involves, that’s what they need and I’m hoping other people will open up their homes and give it a try,” said Mary.

As Newman said, in Morristown alone there are 28 foster children in the Youth Villages program, and they say 28 is a low number for them. They usually have around 40. Right now there are only 15 Youth Villages foster homes in that area.

If you would like more information on how you can become a foster parent and other ways to get involved, you can click here.