KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)– The struggles that the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services have been facing are taking a toll on both the children in the system and their staff.
Children are stuck sleeping in offices while they await placement. Back in October, Knox County’s DCS said that there were only around 350 foster homes available for the more than 630 kids placed in DCS custody in Knoxville.
Those with Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services have been fighting to stay afloat. Commissioner Quin has said her staff is “traumatized.”
Ronda Paulson is the founder of Isaiah 1:17 House, was created to step in the gap on removal day by giving children a place to go while DCS looks for a foster home.
“It’s not only true for East Tennessee, it’s not only true for the entire state of Tennessee, but it’s true for Texas and Florida, and Georgia,” Paulson said. “It’s everywhere. Child welfare is in a state of crisis.”
“People want to talk about DCS, they want to talk about the governor, they want to talk about the commissioner,” said Paulson. “You have a child in danger, you’re going to remove that child. Now there’s nowhere for that child to go. What are we supposed to do?”
She said their workload has increased tremendously.
“We opened our first home in June of 2018 and as of today we have 11 open homes with ten more that will open in the Spring of 2023,” she said. “We have two open homes in Indiana, the other nine are in Tennessee.”
“The stay prior to 2020, I always told people our average stay was about 8 hours,” Paulson said. “Post-2020, the average stay is probably three days.”
However, Isaiah 1:17 House is only a short-term solution for these kids.
“We are not a group home. We are not a placement,” Paulson said. “We are not a licensed facility, and so many of these children need a bed in a truly licensed facility.”
Paulson stated the need for foster parents is great, caseworker pay needs to increase and foster care organizations need more financial support.
“It’s the end of the year. Everybody’s thinking about how can I give,” she said. “Give to an agency that helps foster care.”
Right now, Isaiah 1:17 is operating four houses in East Tennessee.
They are in Cocke, Blount, Sevier, and Greene Counties with plans to break ground on Anderson County facility this Sunday. Facilities in Jefferson and Knox County also plan to open their doors in the spring.