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Guidelines to Foster in Tennessee

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Choosing to open your home as a foster parent is not a decision to be taken lightly. The commendable act is life-altering and for that reason, Tennessee ensures that those who want to foster fully understand the responsibilities needed for this commitment.

Making the Decision to Foster

The first step to becoming a foster parent is making the initial decision. This is not a decision that should be made alone even if you plan on fostering as a single parent. Most foster parents have a support system whether that be other family members, neighbors, co-workers, or others. Before making the decision to commit to fostering, individuals or couples should talk with their support system to see how they will be lifted up during this time.

As importantly, if the individual or couple has other children in their home, it’s critical to discuss this decision with them. Bringing in a new family member, especially someone who may only be living in the home for an unknown amount of time, is an adjustment for everyone in the home. If children feel like they are part of the fostering decision, they may feel more comfortable accepting someone new in the home.


Even if someone decides they want to be a foster parent, not everyone will qualify or continue to commit after going through the eligibility process.

In Tennessee, eligibility requirements to be a foster parent include:

  • Age — a potential parent must be at least 21 years old.
  • Background check — no one is allowed to foster without passing a background check. Potential foster parents will be fingerprinted as part of this process.
  • References — potential foster parents must provide at least five references to the state’s Department of Children’s Services (DCS).
  • Information Meeting — this non-commitment meeting gives potential parents additional information about fostering. Additionally in this meeting, potential parents will complete a self-assessment.
  • TN-KEY — this is a training program called Knowledge Empowers You. This program is led by DCS and gives potential parents more information about what fostering is like, potential challenges a foster child or parents may face, and ultimately helps individuals or couples decide if fostering is right for them.
  • Home study — during a home study, a member of DCS will come to the potential parent’s house and see firsthand where a child would eat, sleep, and play. The DCS member will also review medical information, financial statements, and perform an overall safety audit of the home.

All of these factors take time, so it could be several months before a potential parent learns whether they have satisfied all of the eligibility requirements. Because the timeline can be uncertain, potential foster parents are assigned a caseworker from the beginning so there can be consistent communication about the status of the process.

If after the eligibility requirements are met and an individual or couple is approved to be foster parents, then they can accept placements.

Financial Stipend For Placements

If chosen to be a foster parent, that person will receive a financial stipend to compensate for the child’s care. This money is not meant to be spent personally by the foster parent and should be strictly directed towards the care of the child. If individuals are hoping to foster strictly for the financial stipend, they should reconsider becoming a foster parent.

Fostering to Adopt

Some individuals or couples who foster may find themselves in a situation where the child they are fostering is eligible for adoption. Some foster parents may not have the intention to adopt as they begin this process, but other factors may change over time.

Not all foster children are available for adoption. However, foster parents who do find themselves in a situation where they are able and want to adopt must take the proper steps to make that hope a reality. That’s where the family law attorneys at Peterson White, LLP can help. We have successfully handled thousands of cases including helping individuals and couples with the adoption process.

Don’t consider adoption without having an experienced lawyer by your side. Reach out to the team at Peterson White, LLP online or by phone. (855) 919-4124