Tennessee Department of Human Services, Department of Children’s Services

www.tn.gov/youth/

For years, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services had been promoting kinship care as the preferred option for children in state custody. So it was surprising when state officials reviewed their semi-annual data report and learned that several regions in the state were experiencing a decline in the percentage of children placed with kin.

Through the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Family to Family Initiative, Tennessee requested assistance from ChildFocus to assess their kinship practice. ChildFocus worked with the state and two of their regions – Davidson County and Northeast – to pilot a Kinship Improvement Project to remove barriers to safe and stable kinship placements. ChildFocus organized a site visit for regional directors to see a model kinship program, mentored “kinship coordinators” for a new position created by the state, and helped to replicate the pilot in additional regions in the state. Through peer-to-peer learning processes, Childfocus helped to grow and sustain a comprehensive focus on kinship care that continues to this day.

 “Sometimes, all that’s needed to solve complex problems is to have an ‘outsider’ sit and ask us the kinds of questions we can’t find the time (or courage?) to ask ourselves. ChildFocus had the knowledge necessary and the patience required to help us reflect on our practice, ask us the difficult questions, and develop solutions tailored to our unique situation.
~Elizabeth Black, former Director of the Tennessee Office of Permanency