NASHVILLE -- After a decade in which fewer and fewer children were in state custody, the trend has reversed.
The state Department of Children's Services is having some success at growing its network of foster homes for abused and neglected children, but the need is growing faster.
The Tennessean reports (http://tnne.ws/UAyYJk) one of the state's largest private providers is Youth Villages. They collected demographic data on the type of person who makes a good foster parent and recruited through a massive radio campaign, and later through TV. They also began offering $1,500 bonuses to current foster families for each new family recruited.
Youth Villages soon saw a 25 percent increase in inquiries.
DCS is trying to take tactics that work and present them to other regions.
Since 2009, DCS also has pushed for more placements with relatives, doubling kinship placements to where they account for almost 25 percent of total placements.
The various reforms have helped DCS increase its supply of foster homes by more than 1,000 in the past two years.
But some 80 percent of foster parents end up adopting or taking over custody of a child, often ending their time as foster parents.
And adoptions in Tennessee happen faster than any state in the nation, with an average time of 24 months.
The result is a constant need to recruit new foster families.
Earlier this month, DCS Commissioner Kate O'Day asked Gov. Bill Haslam for increased funding to hire 20 new family service workers, who focus on foster families, and a $7 million increase to pay a little more to those families each month.
Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com