State Lawmakers Unveil Plan to Make Adoption Easier in Tennessee, Reduce Caseload of Department of Children’s Services Caseworkers

An Adoption and Foster Care Caucus meeting was held on Monday where Tennessee state lawmakers announced legislation aimed at making adoption and foster care easier in the state as well as reducing the caseload of Department of Children’s Services (DCS) caseworkers.

The meeting was led by Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) and House Republican Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby).

A recent audit by the Tennessee Comptroller’s office revealed various issues within DCS, including insufficient housing for children and failure to address child safety problems.

“The Department of Children’s Services is struggling to provide support services to Tennessee’s most vulnerable children and youth,” the audit states.

A total of 16 bills were discussed during the Monday meeting, all of which would work to “make many improvements such as removing red tape in the adoption process, increasing the number of children that someone can watch in their home, and reducing the caseload of Department of Children’s Services (DCS) caseworkers,” according to a press release by the State Senate.

One bill discussed during the meeting, Senate Bill 531, would specifically change the way caseload caps per DCS caseworkers are calculated from an “average” to “actual” cap of 20 cases per case worker. Another bill that was discussed aimed at reducing DCS caseworkers’ caseloads was Senate Bill 544, which would require DCS to hire guardian ad litems (GALs) to review cases that might need parental rights terminated.

The Adoption and Foster Care Omnibus Bill, Senate Bill 528, was discussed in the meeting as well. The bill, which would make “various changes to adoption and foster care,” would, among others, allow non-foster care parents to adopt from DCS, allow more time for adoptive parents to pay for birth-related expenses, allow foster parents to be involved in court proceedings, prohibit the overturning of adoptions after 6 months and increase options for pre-birth, and post-birth surrenders.

A bill aimed at increasing the number of children that someone can watch in their home was also discussed on Monday. The bill, Senate Bill 537, would “increase the number of non-biological children a person can watch in their home without having to register as a childcare facility,” in order to “start conversations about innovative solutions to the childcare desert in Tennessee.”

“As a pro-life lawmaker, it is imperative we protect life not only of the unborn but also beyond the point of birth. This means we have to strengthen the social welfare system that takes care of children in Tennessee,” Haile said in a statement, adding, “We need to make adoption and foster care cheaper, easier and quicker so that we can increase the number of adoptive and foster care families in Tennessee.”

Faison, who is an adoptive parent, also declared, “Republicans in the General Assembly are going to take aggressive steps to make Tennessee a national leader when it comes to protecting children as well as the most adoption-friendly state in the nation.”

A law that went into effect in the new year was also aimed at supporting children within DCS, as previously reported by The Tennessee Star.

The law, SB2398, authorizes DCS to “implement an extension of the foster care program to provide services to youth transitioning from state custody to adulthood.” The bill also requires DCS to reimburse “eligible relative caregivers” an amount “equal to 50 percent of the full foster care board rate” to support the cost of raising the child.

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Kaitlin Housler is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network.




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2 Thoughts to “State Lawmakers Unveil Plan to Make Adoption Easier in Tennessee, Reduce Caseload of Department of Children’s Services Caseworkers”

  1. Ms Independent

    Jeremy Faison should step down after his outrageous and scary display at a certain game. Extremely disturbing behavior.

  2. DABarnett

    Our foster care system is also burdened by an influx of unaccompanied alien children. Tennessee took in at least 5,000 of these children in 2022. Possibly 10% ( exact numbers are not know) went into the state’s foster care system, which pays a premium to any foster parent who takes an .unaccompanied alien child over a U.S. citizen child.