KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tennessee is one of several states that have laws in place to restrict abortions following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Many have asked what this could mean for our foster care system. So, we went straight to the experts to help answer this question.

According to the TN Department of Children’s Services 2020-2021 Annual Report, they provided residential childcare, including foster care, to 7,778 children.

The need for foster parents continues to be a growing concern especially as adoption and foster care agencies prepare for more children to enter the system due to this ruling.

Dr. Walt Mauldin is the Executive Director of Smoky Mountain Children’s Home in Sevierville.

“More and more children will be placed in foster care as a result of this overturning of Roe versus Wade and so we feel like we have to get ready for that,” Mauldin said.

Smoky Mountain Children’s Home is a private faith-based foster care and adoption agency that has been in existence for over 100 years. 

Dr. Mauldin said, “there are approximately a little over 100 [children] in our foster care program, [and] about 32 in our residential program.”

This is only a small portion of the number of children in foster care programs across the state.

Mauldin adds, “right now there are 9,119 children and young people in state custody.”

The average age of the children at Smoky Mountain Children’s Home is around 13 and only about 30% age out each year.

Their organization, among others, is prepared for these numbers to shift as laws that restrict abortions will start to impact our state.

“If we have 9,000 today, then what is that going to be in one or two years?” Mauldin asked. “If we are seeing an influx of more and more foster children in the state of Tennessee then we’re going to have to prepare and hire more case managers, make sure that we are ready for those children coming into the system.”

He states that having enough foster parents is always a concern, “We’re training more foster parents than ever before, but we believe that’s going to be another need.”

Mauldin did mention that there are hundreds of families looking to adopt out of foster care.

Last year, a total of 1,630 children in foster care joined forever families, and 2,323 Participants completed pre-service training to become foster parents.

Foster care agencies are hoping to top those numbers for the 2022 fiscal year.

The total Placement Cost of all Children in State Custody was $355,517,700 in 2021.