KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Many children in East Tennessee are in foster care and the Department of Children’s Services says the need for foster parents is great. According to Kristin Miller with Tennessee Kids Belong over 9,000 kids are in foster care in Tennessee and 400 of them are available for adoption.

“In Knox County the last time I check we had 760 kids in foster care,” Miller said.

She adds that the number of available foster homes is half that.

“So we have 350 foster homes in Knox County and that’s between DCS and our private providers, and when I say 350 it doesn’t mean that they’re all open right now.”

Dylan and Dawn Smith saw the need and opened their doors.

“Yeah, I think fostering to adopt was just kind of the perfect plan for us,” Dawn said.

Dawn and Dylan went through the training to become foster parents and are now full-time, first-time parents to their daughter Emily who they adopted.

“She’s ten,” Dylan said. “She has a huge personality, extremely smart, extremely sassy.”

Though the Smiths decided to foster to adopt, that is not the case in every situation. Some children just need temporary placement.

Many organizations, such as Youth Villages, have foster care specialists to help guide foster parents and these kids through the journey.

“I am a person that takes them on job interviews, is there to do a little dance with them when they have their biggest milestones,” said Mercedes Frazier, a counselor at Youth Villages. “So, I’m not just there as their counselor but I’m there for them as their advocate in all areas honestly.”

They’re putting children’s needs first.

“It’s not just about you,” Dawn said. “If it’s not a good fit, then it’s not going to benefit them either.”

Fostering a child in need is not an easy decision, but it was one the Smiths would say is worth it.
When it comes to fostering, the greatest need is for people to take in teens and sibling groups. You do not have to be a foster parent to be involved with these kids’ lives. There are several ways you can volunteer.