Foster Care Month

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The month of May is recognized nationally as Foster Care Month. Each year, we use this time to acknowledge foster parents, family members, volunteers, mentors, policymakers, child welfare professionals and other members of the community who help children and youth in foster care find permanent homes and connections. National Foster Care Month also provides an opportunity to raise awareness of foster care and the ways DCS serves children in foster care and their families. Follow along with our campaign here and on our social media channels throughout the month. Learn more on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website here.

What is foster care?

  • Foster care is meant to be a temporary service until the family and in some cases, the child, can address the problems that made placement necessary. But, when parents cannot, or will not, make their home safe for the child’s return, other permanent options are sought. 
  • Foster homes provide a stable, caring environment to children. Foster children come in all shapes, sizes, ages and have individual needs and preferences. The Tennessee Department of Children's Services provides a variety of homes and environments that address these individual needs for several thousand children in state custody.
  • Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and siblings are excellent resources to care for minor relatives who enter the foster care system. Relative caregivers are provided with the same support as non-relative caregivers and must meet the same criteria to become an approved foster home.
  • In Tennessee, there are also private agencies that train and support families to care for children in foster care. These agencies must meet the guidelines and criteria outlined by the Department of Children's Services. With the approval of the local DCS office, "shared homes" are resource homes shared with private agencies.
  • Foster homes that serve children with special healthcare needs require additional training and support.

What it takes to become a foster parent


You must be able to:

  • Give without the expectation of immediate returns;
  • Have room in your home and in your daily life;
  • Learn and use proven behavioral management skills;
  • Love and care for children with problems;
  • Support birth families and help a child return home.

Foster Parents can be: 

  • Single or Married 
  • With, or without, children of their own.

Minimum Requirements:

  • At least 21 years of age;
  • Must be fingerprinted and pass a background check;
  • Participate in an Informational Meeting;
  • Must complete a training program called TN-KEY;
  • Participate in a Home Study;
  • Provide documentation of a sufficient income;
  • Complete a health exam;

DCS carefully assesses all applicants and the department also provides the opportunity for prospective Foster Parents to work with a case manager to assess themselves before they accept the role of Foster Parent.

Training for potential foster parents:

Thank you for your interest in serving the children of Tennessee. Foster parents in Tennessee play a key role in the futures of the children and families they encounter. Whether providing temporary support or a permanent home, foster parents help to strengthen families and provide children in care a safe environment where they know they are important and loved.

To prepare for your role as a foster parent, you will learn effective tools and parenting methods to work with and guide the children who are welcomed into your family and to gain an understanding of the different challenges faced by children who come into state custody.

Through the pre-approval training TN KEY (Knowledge Empowers You), you will learn how foster parents work with DCS to improve the lives of children, information about current DCS policies on caring for children in custody, and ultimately if foster parenting is right for you. Whether you want to provide a temporary home for children in need or have the ultimate goal of adoption, TN KEY training will help prepare you for the unique challenges and rewards of becoming a foster parent.


Not all families are called to foster, but every Tennessean can support those who do.

Tennessee Fosters Hope is a statewide collaborative campaign engaging state agencies, community organizations, the business community, and Houses of Worship to elevate high-quality care and opportunities for children and families impacted by foster care and adoption. See how you can get involved today!



Each month, First Lady Maria Lee chooses a new mission for her Tennessee Serves challenge. We are excited to share that this month, the focus is on serving children in foster care and their families. Will you accept the challenge?