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“Desperate need” for foster homes in East Tennessee

Mother who has fostered 195 children and adopted six shares her family’s experience.
Published: Nov. 17, 2021 at 4:33 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 17, 2021 at 7:11 PM EST
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MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Smoky Mountain Children’s Home says it could use the help of at least 50 more foster families as we head into 2022, to meet the need for children who have ended up in state custody.

“It is a desperate need in Tennessee and our area especially,” said Jay Fischesser, who recruits foster families for Smoky Mountain Children’s Home. “East Tennessee, right now, we’ve got dozens of children sleeping in offices. It’s just a never-ending problem. We desperately need homes.”

Laura and Len Rapien have been opening their home for 195 different foster children over the past twenty years, eventually adopting six children. When asked what a foster home needs to provide, Laura explained there is structure and the inclusion of every child in everyday family life.

“Can be really basic. Just food and clothing, appropriate amounts of food.” She also said traditions like Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are very important to share with fostered and adopted children. “Just this week we had one of ours tells us they’d never had a Christmas tree.”

Two of the Rapiens’ adopted daughters explained that the family structure includes everyone pitching in with chores, along with fun traditions like decorating five Christmas trees. Adopted daugther Rosie said “She’s super nice and I really like her for a mom!” Gracie added about her parenting style, “She’s being strict for tough love.”

Fischesser said he is looking for more folks like the Rapien family who can help. “We are so short on homes, we get dozens of emails daily for single children, sibling groups, teenagers. And luckily we have a residential campus where a lot of the teens can be placed. But it’s almost impossible to find homes that will take teenagers. And most of the children we deal with come in sibling groups, so there’s multiple children.”

You can connect via foster@smch.org to sign up for the next orientation that explains the steps toward becoming a foster parent.

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