DCS: State will need more foster homes for children following COVID-19 shutdown

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Posted at 8:31 PM, May 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-18 23:39:21-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — We are seeing the impacts of COVID-19 in some very visible ways, like the death toll and unemployment numbers. But there are some hidden impacts of this pandemic, as well.

Tennessee's Department of Children's Services and groups that work with them say there will be an increasing need for foster homes as the state begins to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reason stems from figures that DCS calls disturbing. The agency says over the last 10 weeks, calls to the state's child abuse hotline have dropped more than 32% compared to the same time last year.

DCS believes that's not necessarily good news. The agency says they think the numbers are low because other adults who would usually be in contact with children this time of year -- and who would be in a position to xcall in reports of suspected child abuse or neglect -- are not seeing the children, because of social distancing and stay-at-home requirements.

The state believes there may actually be an increase in child abuse and neglect cases during this time because of the increased stress at home, but that the cases aren't being reported.

"The people that normally have their eyes on the children -- teachers, the child care workers, the medical providers, folks who give music lessons, our coaches -- none of those people are seeing the children; even church groups have been paused," said Jennifer Nichols, commissioner of the TN Department of Children's Services.

Groups like Bethany Christian Services are working with DCS, trying to recruit families now who want to take in foster children, preparing for what they say will be the inevitable increase in child abuse cases being reported after children are allowed in more group and outdoor activities.

"When the pandemic ends, as we begin to reopen and children are safely returned to school, those hotline numbers will begin to pick up," said Luke Delavergne with Bethany Christian Services.

If you suspect someone you know is the victim of child abuse or neglect, call the TN Child Abuse Hotline at 1-877-237-0004. Under Tennessee law, anyone who suspects child abuse or neglect is required to report it to the state, even if they are not absolutely sure it is happening.

If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, tap here for information from the Department of Children's Services and tap here for information from Bethany Christian Services.