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'I Belong Project' Raises Awareness for TN Adoption


Wednesday, November 30, 2022   

National Adoption Month comes to an end today, but in Tennessee, more than 9,000 children are in foster care and waiting for new families through adoption.

A nonprofit organization is working to equip children and change their experience and outcomes.

Carmen Brown, communications and marketing manager for Tennessee Kids Belong, said it starts with a family recruitment initiative, called the "I Belong Project." Children are the topics of videos presented to an online community interested in adoption. Brown pointed out 30 children were featured during the 30 days of November.

"But we also share these throughout the year," Brown explained. "Through our 'I Belong Project,' we have actually filmed over 700 children in the state of Tennessee, and we have a 55% rate of adoption if we film the child."

Brown added Tennessee Kids Belong is part of America's Kids Belong, a national nonprofit focused on three key areas of the adoption process: family recruitment, community engagement and coalition building.

At the start of the pandemic, Brown noted the number of children being placed into foster care went down, in part because fewer issues of neglect or abuse were spotted by caring adults when kids were not in school or daycare, or at doctor visits. But she emphasized the numbers are on the increase again.

Brown added their goal is to have more homes waiting for kids, than kids waiting for homes.

"We are always focused on the approximately 400 children that are eligible for adoption," Brown stressed. "Out of those 10,000, about 300 to 400 are always eligible for permanent placement. And that is where we are rallying families to open their homes and to adopt the children that need to be placed with a family."

Brown stated some misconceptions around adoption include the idea some children are not adoptable, or adoptive parents have to be "perfect." She added they never expect perfection from parents and children just need a loving home.

"We encourage anyone who has a pull at their heartstrings, anyone who has an extra bedroom, anyone who has a love of animals and can also give that love to a child," Brown said. "Anybody can be a foster parent and provide a safe and loving environment."

Brown noted there is also an app, called "Foster Friendly." It is free and lists more 450 businesses in Tennessee offering discounts on goods and services to foster families.

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