To Reunification & Beyond

When a child enters into foster care, our number one goal, if possible, is reunification with the biological family. While that isn’t always the case and adoption or kinship care becomes the next steps, a successful reunification is something that we strive for. In some cases, the reunification with the biological family continues to include the foster parents that have come to love those children. 

One of our foster families encountered just that with a recent placement. Below, Heather reflects on her relationship with her foster children’s biological mom, both before and after reunification. 


One of the hardest things about being a foster parent is saying good- bye to the children we have shared our home and our love with.  While reunification should always be our ultimate goal, when possible, our hearts break at the thought of these children no longer being in our lives.  Sometimes, however, if you are lucky, you have built a relationship with the biological parent(s) that allows continued contact.  We have been blessed to have this relationship with our most recent placement.

Charre Family.jpg

In August 2017, we welcomed a 9-month-old boy, Tomas, and his 7-year-old sister, Ugenia, into our home.  The mother is from Guatemala and the children were placed with us, primarily because we are a bilingual family.  There was initial animosity from mom, because people told her that we planned to adopt her children. However, once I made it clear that this is only a step that is taken when parents don’t show interest in working their plan or recovering their children, things went more smoothly.  

The children returned to her care in May 2018.  Since that time, we have been able to spend time with them as a family and also one on one with the children.  We took Ugenia to VBS, had birthday celebrations with them, have assisted with follow up medical appointments for a health condition that required Tomas to have surgery while in our care, helped mom shop for WIC and served as emergency babysitters.  Once, when we were shopping, Tomas kept saying “mommy, mommy” and, even though she would answer him he continued until she said “oh, the other mommy” and laughed. It felt good to know she was ok with him calling me mommy.  

My greatest gift came yesterday, though, when the mom sent me a text to wish me happy Valentine’s Day (known as the day of love and friendship in Latin America) and thanked me for our unconditional love for them and told me they love us as well.            

Written by Heather C.

We would like to thank Heather for sharing her experiences with us! If you are interested in fostering, please contact us at 423-693-2580 or email

National Foster Care Month & Foster Care Information Session

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May is National Foster Care Month. With an estimated 1,000 children in the Tennessee Valley in state care at any given time, there is a critical need for quality, loving foster homes in this area. Chambliss Center for Children will host a free Foster Care Information Session on Tuesday, June 4th for those with an interest in fostering. This Foster Care Information Session is an opportunity to learn more about our PATH (Parents as Tender Healers) training, the State of Tennessee's required training for foster parents. You'll have a chance to get general information about fostering and ask questions. There's no commitment to sign up for classes that evening, however, if you want to begin the classes, you can immediately enroll in our accelerated program for the summer. Classes will begin June 6th and continue every Tuesday and Thursday through the end of June. If you need time to consider, we will have another round of PATH classes starting in September, which will meet once a week on Thursdays.

Kindly RSVP to 423-693-2580 by Friday, May 31st, so accurate preparations may be made. Child care is also available, but must be scheduled by Friday, May 31st, as well.

National Child Abuse Prevention Month

Ending Generational Hurt…. Now!

Written by Case Manager, Antole T.

During the month of April and throughout the year, communities are encouraged to increase awareness and provide education and support to families through resources and strategies to prevent child abuse and neglect. Abuse and neglect take a long-term physical and emotional toll on individual children, their families, and the communities in which they live. It costs more than $128 billion each year. In 2018, there were more than 700,000 confirmed victims of child abuse and neglect in the United States.

Hundreds, even thousands, of American children’s lives can be saved each year by protecting those at highest risk for death due to abuse and neglect. By many measures, our communities suffer from the exponential growth of traumatized children impacting our schools, public health, and public safety. The economic impact of generational child abuse and the ever-increasing numbers of mothers without parenting skills, children with serious mental health problems, and inadequate coping skills is making America poorer and more dangerous. 

Chambliss Center for Children, along with other local organizations, are continuing the prevention work by informing, teaching, and training the families within our community. 

The video linked below shares how Chambliss Center for Children is an ongoing gateway to ending the fight against child abuse by providing keys resources that help install safe relationships for our children and foster families within our community.

For additional resources and trainings, visit our website,, and

Life as a Foster Parent: Sharon Collins

One of our Case Managers, Melissa Hand, recently sat down with one of our foster parents and interviewed her about her experience with fostering. Read below for her story.

Sharon Collins, Chambliss Center for Children Foster Parent

Sharon Collins, Chambliss Center for Children Foster Parent

I recently interviewed an expert panel for a foster parent class. One of my panel members was our foster parent, Sharon Collins, who has been fostering for 18 years. I later spoke with her to gather more information. Here are some of her insights:

Melissa: How did you get into fostering? 

Sharon: My niece, that I raised as my own since third grade, encouraged me to foster when she and my daughter both moved out. She did not want me to be lonely. I started with teenage girls, but after some time, I decided to take boys instead.  I have fostered over 50 children in 18 years.

Melissa: What are some of the most important things you have learned? 

Sharon: Have a backup plan for help, especially as a single foster parent – my significant other helps with picking up kids and serves as a mentor and a father figure.  I also expect kids to be kids… my house is “lived in”. Also, don’t take things the child does personally, they are acting on what they’ve learned from their family, or because they are upset about their situation.

Melissa: What are some tips for working with birth parents?

Sharon: I have to earn their trust and build relationship with both the children and their parents. Birth parents will be watching everything you say and do. Just be yourself and encourage them. I give the parents my number (*optional*), and allow them to call me about their children. I brag to them about their children and remind them that I am not trying to take their child from them, just to love them and keep them until they can work it out to get them home. I encourage them to do what they need to do to get their kids back, and let them know they can always call me to get advice, encouragement, and sometimes, assistance. 

Melissa: How can you help a child acclimate to your home, considering their trauma history?

Sharon: I help them ease into my home by watching TV or playing family games together, especially if I have another foster child in the home. That helps.  If they want, I take them to a restaurant that is similar to their culture or one that they love. If they are really nervous, I joke with them to break the ice.  I asked one teenager if he was scared and he said “yes”, so I asked him if he bites… He looked at me funny and said “No” … then I said, “Neither do I, So, we’ll be alright!” This made him laugh and it really helped. You have to keep a sense of humor!


I’d like to thank Sharon for sharing her experiences with us! If you are interested in fostering, please contact Chambliss at 423-693-2580, or email


I look forward to working with you!   ~Melissa Hand, Case Manager

Instant Family Movie Review


In November, the movie, Instant Family, was released in theaters, and viewers got a look at what it’s like to become foster parents. Starring Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne, the two parents decided to foster a sibling group of three children, and the movie shows a glimpse of the process of becoming foster parents, receiving a placement, and all of the joy and trials that come with fostering.

After our Residential Staff went to go see the movie, we asked some of our case managers about how the movie compared to real life fostering and adoption.

I believe the movie Instant Family did a great job at portraying the truly difficult parts of fostering, as well as the rewards. I often teach foster parents to never expect the foster children in your home to be “grateful” to be there. The family in this movie learned this as well. Children in foster care need unconditional love and support, because they will most certainly test those conditions at times. The movie also lets you see things from the children’s perspectives, which can be very helpful in keeping us adults in check - to remember why we do this work as case managers and foster parents in the first place. The family in this movie works through cultural differences, heartaches and absolute frustration.  But it is also evident how worthwhile it is to stick it out and see the lives of children (and their foster parents) forever changed. I think any potential foster parent would benefit from watching Instant Family.  –Melissa, Case Manager

Overall, I give this film 4 out of 5 stars. I loved it. It was a great representation of fostering children from the foster parent perspective and the roller coaster of emotions that come with the court process, building a relationship with the children, and the reunification process. The only thing I wish was addressed was better services offered for the children when transitioning and dealing with a new potential adoptive home. However, I also understand services may not be offered in all settings, as this film was based on a true story. The film depicts a couple seeking to adopt a child through foster care, and they end up with 3 children and the struggles and challenges that come with it, including language barriers, cultural differences, and understanding the love needed. Ultimately the movie continues to remind viewers that structure and love are very important through this process, along with support and commitment.  –Veronique, Case Manager

If you’ve ever considered fostering, please contact Chambliss Center for Children at 423-693-2580 or email The agency will be offering PATH (Parents as Tender Healers) training, the required training to foster in the State of Tennessee, each quarter.

Transitional Living

Chambliss Center for Children began its Transitional Living Program just over a year ago. The program is designed to assist youth “aging out” of the foster care system. We started by purchasing one duplex and then building two new duplexes. As we wrap up this first year, we are finalizing the renovation of two additional duplexes and an apartment, giving us the ability to serve 11 young adults.  Programs like this help youth who have been in foster care transition into adulthood, providing them support in this critical stage of life. All participants in our program must be in school and must have a part-time job. We are here to encourage them, challenge them, and help them navigate life as an adult. Please watch the following video to hear from one of the young ladies in our program. If you would like to learn more, please visit

National Foster Care Month & Foster Care Info Night


May is National Foster Care Month. With an estimated 1,000 children in the Tennessee Valley in state care at any given time, there is a critical need for quality, loving foster homes in this area. Chambliss Center for Children will host a free Foster Care Info Night on Tuesday, June 5th for those with an interest in fostering. The event will feature a short film on a child’s experience in foster care and the value of a loving, safe foster home. There will be an opportunity to learn more about Chambliss Center for Children, the foster care system, requirements for fostering, and to hear from current foster parents. This is a no-pressure event. The goal is to provide information and answer questions.

Kindly RSVP to 423-693-2580 by Friday, June 1st, so accurate preparations for refreshments may be made. Child care is also available, but must be scheduled by Friday, June 1st, as well.



Involving Your Biological Children in the Fostering Process

Welch Family.jpg

In 2015, Chris and Rachael, two full-time working parents with three biological children, decided it was time to add a little more adventure to their lives by becoming foster parents. Prior to embarking on the fostering journey, Chris and Rachael talked in-depth about the possibility with all of their biological children.

“While Chris and I felt led to begin learning about foster care, we knew that making this commitment to get involved would impact all five of us. It was important to us that each of our children were on-board and understood what this journey could mean for us. We actually brought our children with us to our first informational meeting at Chambliss so they could ask their own questions as well.” explains Rachael.

In 2016, this family of five became a family of seven – two different times! The first to share their home and receive their love were two sisters. They were only with the family for a few weeks before being returned to their birth mother. Their second placement, two brothers, came just before Christmas in 2016. These precious boys were with the family for several months before being reunited with their older two brothers and returned to their parents.   

“Saying goodbye isn’t easy on any of us. No matter if they are in our home for a few weeks or many months, they become part of our family. I just have to be the best brother I can while they are in our home,” says Eli, Rachael and Chris' 15-year-old son.

Many adults enter the world of fostering worrying about the time when foster children will leave their care, unsure of how they will be able to handle it emotionally. When that time comes, it will also have an impact on the biological children in the family. That is why having conversations with your biological children before beginning the fostering process is so important. Entering this life-changing process affects the entire family, and laying out all feelings and concerns ahead of time can help when trying to navigate the daily joys and challenges that come with fostering.

Below are a couple of links to stories from biological children about their fostering experiences.

The Department of Children’s Services is also now offering a training session called Impact of Fostering on Biological Children. If you are interested in learning more about this training, please contact Jennifer Davis at


From No Children to a Full House


Justin and Christin Ownby have been married for 7 years. Through Justin’s work as a Youth Pastor, he and Christin have spent years working with children. They both had a desire to foster, even before thinking of having children of their own. They each have family members who have been touched by adoption in some way.

A little over three years ago, shortly after they were approved to foster, they received a call from Chambliss Center for Children about a sibling group of three. Without hesitation, they said yes. A few months later, they added the sibling group’s newborn baby brother, and became a family of six!

As we enter the holiday season, please keep in mind all the children who need stable, loving homes. If you’ve ever considered fostering, please contact Chambliss Center for Children at 423-693-2580 or email The agency will be offering PATH (Parents as Tender Healers) training, the required training to foster in the State of Tennessee, from January 11 through February 22nd. Visit for more information on the training sessions.

November is National Adoption Month

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In Hamilton and the surrounding counties, there are more than 1,000 children in state custody at any given time. These children have been removed from their homes because of abuse, abandonment, neglect, or they have come through the juvenile court system. Chambliss Center for Children contracts with the state to find loving, stable foster homes for these youth. Finding a permanent home for these children is the ultimate goal, whether with their biological parents - if the parents can complete the steps needed to regain custody of their children - or with other family members. However, approximately 20% of these youth end up becoming available for adoption.

November is National Adoption Month, specifically adoption through foster care. In an effort to provide the community more information on the fostering process, Chambliss Center for Children will host a free Foster Care Info Night on Tuesday, November 14th from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.

The event will be held at Chambliss Center for Children, located at 315 Gillespie Road. Attendees will view a short film about a child’s experience in foster care and the value of a loving, safe foster home. There will be an opportunity to learn more about Chambliss Center for Children, the foster care system, requirements for fostering and adoption, and to hear from current foster parents. 

Fostering Hope - Trauma & Resilience


Michelle and her husband Dan became foster parents years ago. They adopted two children who are now adults. In October 2013, they began fostering with Chambliss Center for Children. Since fostering with Chambliss, they have had two placements which both turned into adoptions. They have also provided respite care on numerous occasions.

Children who enter the foster care system have experienced trauma. Some more severe than others. Michelle and Dan foster because they want to help these children who have had significant hurtful experiences developresiliency and hope for their future.

Michelle has a Master’s Degree in Social Work.  She is certified to teach PATH (Parents As Tender Healers), the foster parent training curriculum. Because of her education and experience fostering, we asked her to share her thoughts on trauma and resiliency.  


Children coming into foster care need parents who are willing to learn about how to effectively parent a child who has experienced trauma and loss. Trauma may take many forms, including neglect, abuse, abandonment, violence between caregivers, natural disasters and accidents.

A child who has experienced trauma is always "on alert". Their behaviors are a direct response to this. As a foster parent, we are blessed with the opportunity to not only work with the child, but to also work with the birth families. These families are broken (or maybe cracked). They need our support and encouragement as well. Many of the birth parents have themselves experienced trauma and do not have the skills of how to help their children as they cannot help themselves.

It is important to learn about how "triggers" can affect a child's response to what we might see as a normal event or even just a mild irritant.

As a foster parent, if we are open and willing to change and learn and grow in regards to how we interact with and parent the children in our care, they WILL grow, blossom and become adults who are empathetic and positive contributing adults in our community.

One of the best ways to strengthen and provide a safer community is to take responsibility in the outcomes. Our children are our outcomes.

Click the following link to learn more about Parenting After Trauma:



Children come to us with a tremendous amount of resiliency. They are able to overcome the trauma they have experienced. They can become even stronger for it. For a very realistic depiction of trauma and resiliency, watch the movie, "ReMoved". It demonstrates the many aspects of what a foster child experiences and how they can heal. They show the trauma, triggers, the resilience and hope of a girl, Zoe, and the foster mom.

“ReMoved” Part 1 -

“ReMoved” Part 2 -


If a child has hope, they have resiliency and a future. We as foster parents have the opportunity and privilege of further developing resiliency and hope for a child and their future.

If we as members of our community are not willing to reach out to the children and families in need, our community will not flourish and grow. Our community will become riddled with hopelessness, violence and other poor outcomes. We cannot say, "Someone else will do it". Those "Someone elses" are already doing it and we need help! We need more "Someone elses". We need people to invest in their future.


There are many ways to assist in foster care. Not only being a foster parent, but there is a need for churches and communities to surround and support foster parents. If you would like to learn more about fostering or how you can help, please contact us at 423-693-2580 or email