KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — There’s a growing need for more foster parents for children currently in the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) and officials are sharing how the pandemic has affected those increasing numbers.

According to Camelot Care Centers of Tennessee, there are more than 8,000 children in foster care and with pandemic restrictions somewhat lifting, they are offering online classes to help people become foster parents who otherwise would not be able to attend in-person courses.

“As things have started to open back up, the first thing we have seen is an uptick in the number of calls coming into the DCS child abuse hotline,” said Susan Sharp, Camelot Care Center Regional Team Coordinator.

Sharp adds, “the children coming into care is outpacing the number of people coming forward wanting to be foster parents.”

The state is also offering virtual foster parent mini-conferences to focus on the three grand regions in Tennessee.

“For us, our primary goal is to make sure our children are safe, in a stable home environment,” Carren Broadnax, resource linkage coordinator with Tennessee DCS, said. “Many kids do not ask to be in the circumstances that they’re in.”

In Knox County, the need is seen by the numbers. Broadnax says currently in the greater Knoxville area, Tennessee DCS has 677 children who are in state custody ranging from less than 1 year old up to 18 years old.

“We are in need of foster care homes across the city of Knoxville and across the state of Tennessee as a whole,” Broadnax said.

May also marks Foster Care Awareness Month.

It’s not an easy job being a foster parent, but it can be very rewarding.

“It’s crazy and it’s amazing and it’s just kind of organized chaos,” said foster parent, Mallory Griffin.

Griffin and April Gillispie, who is also a foster parent, say every day is worth it.

“It’s just pulling up another chair, it’s just making another bed, it’s just packing another lunch, it’s just loving another human,” explained Gillispie.

The primary goal is making sure all children are safe, in a stable home environment.

“In a season where those kiddos need someone to choose them and choose to get attached to them, it’s totally worth it to experience the heartbreak of them leaving your home because you did exactly what God asked you to do,” said Griffin.

Parents who can foster children in Tennessee range from single or married parents; with or without children of their own; to at least 21 years old. Requirements to be a foster parent include passing a background check, completing a training program called “TN-KEY (Knowledge Empowers You),” participate in a home study, provide five references and be in good financial and physical health.