East Tennessee Christian Home needs foster parents

By Lesley Jenkins
star staff

East Tennessee Christian Home was granted a Child Placing License from the Tennessee Department of Children's Services almost three months ago, and now the home needs help from the public in making a noticeable difference.
   The 18 children housed at ETCH are there through no fault of their own, and many of them are actively seeking placement in foster care. Melissa Marvel, program director, said even though the home has been licensed to place needy children in foster homes for almost three months, there have been no placements made yet.
   Some of the children living on campus are not available for foster care, but Marvel stressed that many children, ages newborn to 18, are available across the state to be placed in foster care through ETCH.
   "As far as the older kids and teenagers, it's an opportunity to help them help themselves and to teach them the things they need," Marvel said.
   Though many kids could qualify for foster care, it does not guarantee they are available for adoption. When a child comes to ETCH, a care plan is made specifically for the child.
   The majority of plans strive to reunite the child with his/her natural parents and call for certain steps such as requiring parents and children to attend Alcoholics Anonymous or an anger management programs.
   Foster parents can also take on a bigger challenge and provide a home for a teenage mother and her baby. Marvel said she has a growing need for this type of home. Based on personal experience in caring for a teenage mother with a three year old child, Marvel said, "You're not parenting her child, you're teaching her to become a parent. It helps to break the cycle by showing them how to be a good parent or a role model. Many of our kids (at ETCH) don't have the role model to be a good parent."
   A single person or married couples over the age of 21 can apply to provide foster care for one year as long as they are financially stable and can provide quality references and enough space in the home. The home must have a fire extinguisher, telephone and a smoke detector.
   A 9-week training course called Parents Are Tender Helpers, PATH, must be completed by applicants. Before the home is approved, a study is conducted by ETCH representatives, references are verified and a criminal background check performed.
   Marvel said a few people have contacted her interested in fostering young children. "They do have some say. Rare people will take teenagers. They can specify what they are willing and not willing to do," Marvel said.
   The agency works to place a child in care that fits into the family lifestyle. An approved home can house up to 6 children at one time. A caseworker is available for support 24 hours daily.
   Foster parents are given a daily board rate to support the child financially and pay for the child's basic needs, which are determined on a case-by-case basis. Money for health care is also provided by TennCare.
   Visitation with birth parents is required by law and is also scheduled on a case-by-case basis, as long as reuniting with birth parents is the ultimate goal in the care plan.
   Those who are interested in becoming foster parents should contact Marvel at (423)-542-4423 or email her at m.marvel@etnchristianhome.org.
   ETCH receives 50 percent of its funding from donations from churches, groups and individuals. They are in need of basic care essentials, monetary donations and volunteers. For a complete list of needed items and more information about foster care visit www.etnchristianhome.org.