Nonprofits work to help foster children

Tennessee's foster care program is facing backlash after a scathing new report. WSMV's Brendan Tierney reports.
Published: Jan. 12, 2023 at 7:27 PM CST
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Tennessee’s foster care system is facing backlash after a scathing report showing major holes in how foster children are treated across the state.

Tennessee ranks worst in the entire country for foster care instability, and it’s been that way for years.

As lawmakers call for change, several nonprofit groups are working to help DCS fix the issue by keeping children in stable foster homes.

Isaiah 117 House has nine locations across the state to care for children for up to three days when they are first removed from their parents until they are placed with a foster family.

Founder Ronda Paulson was a foster parent herself and said giving a child love and support when they are first removed from their house can make a major difference in their success in the foster care system.

“We provide for that foster parent everything that they need,” Paulson said. “If you are walking into this journey and you don’t feel like you have what you need and you don’t feel supported, you are not going to do it for very long. We really strive to meet that foster parent on that day and give them everything they need, get the resources in their hands that they need.”

Isaiah 117 House was started in East Tennessee and is now opening locations in the Nashville area. The first home in Middle Tennessee is set to open in Murfreesboro in the spring, and they have houses set to open in East Nashville and Springfield by the end of summer.

Volunteers and employees greet a child at the door by name to welcome them to their temporary home. Children are given new clothes, backpacks and toys at an Isaiah 117 House to help reduce the trauma of the experience.

“We need more transitional spaces for children who are having a really hard time finding placement,” Paulson said.

“DCS is trying but there is literally nowhere for some of these children to go,” Paulson said. “We desperately need foster parents. We can’t slight case workers who are removing children out of a really hard situation and then find they have nowhere for them to go. That’s not their fault.”

The charity relies on donations to build the homes, and Paulson said church communities around the house help with fundraising.

Paulson said they have already seen lots of success with children having a smoother transition to their new homes and are excited to continue that across more locations in Tennessee.