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Tennessee Kids In Foster Care Must Wait A Little Longer For Senate Help

August 4, 2008

Nashville, TN – A bill awaiting U.S. Senate action could mean major benefits for thousands of Tennessee foster children, but it looks like they'll have to wait until the Senate Finance Committee reconvenes next month.

Currently, many children in foster care experience multiple placements and "grow out" of the system without ever finding permanent homes. Michael McSurdy, associate executive director of the Oasis Center, says it's important for the state to take a different look at measuring success.

"We don't just need to count kids leaving care as a success. We need to count kids leaving care and having connections and some form of family that will support them in their adulthood."

The "Fostering Connections to Success Act" (HR 6307) also includes incentives to help older kids find homes. The state often overlooks dealing with these kids, McSurdy explains, because the cost of placing them outweighs the potential for a successful adoption.

"That benefits the state in that they're not bringing kids into care - but I'm not sure that we’re necessarily always meeting their needs in the best ways."

McSurdy says the bill will also support guardianship and kinship care. And, while adoption is the ultimate goal, he points out that it isn't always the best answer for every child. According to McSurdy, as long as they have a stable, supportive environment it doesn't really matter what label is put on the relationship.

The Senate Finance Committee has now scheduled the bill for early September. Advocates are hoping it will pass before the current incentives expire.

Barbara Dab/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - TN