Editorial Roundup: Tennessee

Kingsport Times News. June 26, 2022.

Editorial: Do you have what it takes to be a foster parent?

As Frontier Health seeks foster parents to help meet a growing need in the region, the Census Bureau says that nearly 18.5 million American children are growing up without fathers. The U.S. owns the title of the world’s leader in fatherlessness.

Frontier Health says the pandemic has had a “dire impact” on the foster care systems in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, with more children entering foster care at a time when there are fewer foster parents available to care for them.

“The last two years have also seen fewer foster parents taking in children for fear of jeopardizing the health of their own biological families,” says Frontier.

As a result, some children have temporarily spent nights in the offices of state child welfare agencies in Tennessee and Virginia.

Noelle Grimes, Frontier’s division director for Children’s Continuum Services, said there “is a great need for families willing to foster and provide safe, nurturing and supportive homes to children who have to enter foster care.”

It’s not just a local problem. We just celebrated Father’s Day with approximately 80% of single- parent homes led by single mothers, leading to nearly 25% of children growing up without a father in the home, say U.S. Reps. Burgess Owens, Byron Donalds and Jack Brewer.

They are supporting legislation promoting fatherhood and the “vital role it plays for children. We know that fatherhood is essential to the development of our children, and the increased involvement of fathers in the home leads to better results on a wide variety of outcomes. From economic prosperity, increased academic performance, to improved social mobility; fathers in their respective homes continue to be a key indicator of success for all children across racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. That is why we have joined forces to introduce a resolution into the U.S. House of Representatives that promotes fatherhood and its proven benefit to society.”

Frontier Health is asking for families to participate in one of its two therapeutic foster care programs. TRACES is a child-placing agency licensed by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. VALUES is designated the same by the Virginia Department of Social Services.

Frontier says both programs will help train parents who are willing to open their homes to foster children.

Tennessee and Virginia also provide a monthly financial stipend to foster families to help them care for the children they take in.

“We’re there for foster parents 24/7,” said Alexandra Enriquez, a foster parent recruiter and trainer for VALUES. “We will help you every step of the way.”

Enriquez said it takes two years of training to become a foster parent. She said the programs also include outside resources to help meet the special needs of children in therapeutic care. She notes the average length of stay for a child in a foster home in Virginia is 21 months.

Tennessee residents interested in becoming a foster parent should contact TRACES at frontierhealth.org/foster/traces/. Virginia residents can reach VALUES at frontierhealth.org/foster/values/.

“If you have the heart and desire to become a foster parent, we want to hear from you,” Enriquez said.

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Johnson City Press. June 25, 2022.

Editorial: A hot car is no place for your babies — human or otherwise

Every summer, disturbing news reports arrive about children left in sweltering vehicles. Many of these cases are fatal. The National Safety Council reports that on average 39 children under the age of 15 die from heat stroke after being left in a vehicle each year in the U.S.

More than half have occurred because a child was forgotten. From 1990 to 2019, 35 children died in Tennessee.

A Stanford University School of Medicine study found that a vehicle’s passenger compartment can heat up an average of 40 degrees within an hour, regardless of the outside temperature. The study found that when it’s 85 degrees outside, a car’s interior can get to 104 degrees after 10 minutes and 119 after 30 minutes.

Eighty percent of the temperature rise occurred within the first half-hour. The danger does not just come on hot days. The sun’s rays are the culprit. Stanford reported deaths had occurred with outside conditions as cool as 70 degrees.

Despite prevention campaigns, such as the “Look Before You Lock” initiative, this problem shows no sign of slowing. In 2018, a record number of 53 children died, closely followed in 2019 with 52. These numbers do not account for children who survive after being rescued. One has to wonder how many go unreported. Awareness is definitely lacking, so there’s a need for stronger intervention.

In addition to the dozens of children, hundreds of pets die each year after being left in hot cars.

The Washington County/Johnson City Animal Shelter regularly receives calls in the hotter months reporting pets locked in vehicles.

So what to do if you see a child or a distressed animal left in a warm vehicle? Calling 911 is your first step. If others are around, a search party for the driver would be in order. As a last resort, Tennessee law allows you to break a window to save a child or an animal from a locked vehicle, but you must first contact law enforcement.

For parents, caregivers and pet owners, though, the best defense against a horrific outcome is paying proper attention. If you must have a child with you on your trip out, follow that “look twice before you lock” advice. Use your phone to set reminder alerts. Tape a note on your own door. Place the stuff you need for your trip or for work in the back seat with the child.

For pet owners, unless you’re headed to a veterinarian’s office, a groomer, a dog park or another household for a visit, there are few reasons for you to drag Fido or Mittens along with you. Leaving a cracked window is not enough.

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