Foster child adoption and private or agency adoption are similar under Tennessee law, but the circumstances and events surrounding the adoption of children in foster care often present unique challenges. According to a recent Huffington Post article, many states, including Tennessee, show an increase in the number of children who need foster care. The rise in need may correlate with the opioid epidemic. The report showed that nationally a large number of foster parents often decide they no longer want to participate in foster programs. Some complain of inadequate training and instruction in connection with foster care. Others simply describe circumstances that are too difficult for them to manage.
In Tennessee, the Department of Children’s Services Division of Foster Care and Adoption in Tennessee provides a handbook for foster parents, which includes details about foster child adoption. There are several types of foster care placement. When children are placed in traditional foster homes, the end goal may not be adoption. Rather, the desired outcome may be to reunite children with birth parents. When possible, DCS will attempt to place children in the care of relatives. These “kinship foster homes” can help reduce the trauma associated with displacement. Other types of homes are available where special needs are present.
When parents are no longer able to fulfill their custodial duties, courts may sever the legal relationship between parent and child. As a consequent, the child becomes a ward of DCS. The termination of such a relationship when it is not accomplished in specific contemplation of adoption highlights a distinction between foster child adoption and private or agency adoption. The adoption of a foster child by foster parents creates that legal relationship between the parties and puts upon the new parents those custodial duties required by law. Foster parents who become adoptive parents taken on these new responsibilities willingly and voluntarily.