KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services Commissioner Margie Quin described the state of the system as “traumatizing” for both children and her staff when speaking with state lawmakers.
It’s at least the second time Quin has brought up the problem in just more than a month on the job and it’s not the only issue she raised.
The Knoxville DCS office has seen an influx in the past few years regarding the number of children they’re serving and not enough foster families to fill the need.
It’s a problem they’re seeing across the state and was addressed by the commissioner.
“It is very challenging but I am grateful to know that our current commissioner sees that it is traumatic not only to the children but the staff, and just having for once to know that we have a leadership person on board right now who can see that and verbalize that to others is really invaluable in itself,” said Carren Broadnax, the Resource Linkage Coordinator for Knoxville DCS.
Here in Knoxville, there are twice as many children in need of care than there are available foster families.
“We have 630 children who are currently in custody in Knox County alone,” Broadnax. “That doesn’t actually count the neighboring counties that are also in our viewing area, but for Knox County, we only have 353 foster homes for those 630 kids.”
Quin said that so of the children in state custody with nowhere to go are even having to sleep in the offices at the Department of Children’s Services.
“Because of the limitation of beds, there are about 11 to 15 juvenile justice youth in local DCS offices waiting for appropriate placements,” said Quin.
Broadnax said they too have experienced having to keep children in their offices overnight until they can find foster homes. However, places like Isaiah 1:17 House have been created to help decrease these types of scenarios from occurring by giving children a place to feel safe and a bed to sleep in until DCS can find them a home in foster care.
Broadnax said more still needs to be done.
“It’s time for us to acknowledge that there is a problem and to go about how do we collectively come together as a community to cover our own.”
They are continuously looking for more foster families and employees to keep up with the influx of children coming into state custody.
There are also ways you can donate needed items to your particular county’s DCS office. For information on how you can donate, apply for a position, and volunteer. click here.
If you would like to purchase individual items for your county’s DCS office, you can find a list here.