MT. JULIET, Tenn. (WTVF) — A Mt. Juliet family adopted their teenage son after several years of fostering children through the Tennessee Department of Children's Services.
"We went through the process of becoming approved but it kind of started with a speaker at church and not knowing the need and hearing about it and realizing that it was something we could do wanted to do should do," recalled foster and adoptive parent Clint Haynes.
Haynes and his wife Lacie explained their first foster children came through their doors in 2016 right as they were starting their own family.
"We started with zero to seven. And so we immediately got four boys that were like three to eight. And then from there, we kind of grew and you become you know more comfortable and because we've been doing this about five years so you know, you just start to get your legs under you and realize that like most kids are just kids no matter how old they are, you know, like a teenage boy can sound really scary. But then, once you've kind of been in this world and then you meet your other foster friends, teenage boys and stuff like that. You're like, oh, ‘OK, so it's just kind of like a baby in a big kid body,'" said Lacie.
Nine foster kids later, in 2019, the Haynes' opened their home to a 17-year-old boy.
"Quincy came his senior year of high school. Oliver [our biological son] was nine months old, like fall of senior year and then the spring, you know, the tornado happened like right around spring break and then COVID was like a week later," recalled Lacie.
As of the last week of May 2022, nearly 7,000 Tennessee children were either in foster care or awaiting foster placement.
The Tennessee Department of Children's Services reported the state has nearly 5,000 foster families but need more.
Those numbers grew as the state grew in population.
"Everyone is doing their best to keep up with that growth and everyone is working really hard and partnering to come up with creative solutions, but you know, it, it's growing and we need to respond to that," explained Nikki Swan, program director of Youth Villages of Middle Tennessee.
Youth Villages helps families connect with children seeking a foster home, provides in-home services, a services for young adults who turn 18 as well as other programs.
"We're always looking at the right fit and making sure that that those matches go well. So everyone is really working hard to do that. And but often, that youth are placed in maybe places that are not as appropriate, because that's the only bed available," explained Swan.
Swan's organization works with about 1,000 Tennessee children every year.
"There is such a need and I think that it's important to reflect that. These are just regular kids, and they come from regular families too," she said. " I think sometimes that can feel intimidating or scary to get involved with but most of the time these are just regular families that need somebody to help while they are getting back on their feet or you know, taking care of something that they are struggling with."
In Quincy's case, adoption was the best option for him but he was running out of time when he arrived at the Haynes' home in 2019.
"I was 17 and I've been to like a bajillion foster homes at this point. And I was told this is my last one. So I like had to make it work, you know, and I didn't really have high expectations and high hopes," he explained. "And then I get here and it's very welcoming. And I felt happy, you know, like part of family."
He had had 14 placements in other foster homes before he was placed with the Haynes.
"Quincy came in and he instantly honestly just like suited our family so well. And so we all attached to each other very quickly and and kind of just started to feel like a family really quick," said Lacie.
Quincy said he now knows it is never too late to be adopted and hopes other families will open their homes to the kids still waiting for stability.
"I don’t want people to get in it for, you know, the looks the views, you know, the hypothetical money or whatever and just, we would love for them get into because like you're helping or or, you know, helping a kid that is looking for a home and somebody to put their trust in," Quincy stated.
Clint said through support groups during their years of fostering, they learned a foster family does not have to be the "perfect family."
"There isn't one demographic that's a perfect foster parent or family," explained Clint. "We've seen single people that are great foster parents. We've seen empty nesters that are great foster families, families with no children with young children with grown or high school-aged children. So there's no demographic, it's perfect. But it could be a perfect situation for you."
For those interested in learning more about fostering or adopting in Tennessee, visit the state's website.