Family gives back by opening home to foster care
Nationally, there are nearly 400,000 children (about half the population of Delaware) that need foster homes. The state of Tennessee — where Youth Villages helps find foster homes for children — is no different. On any given day, more than 8,000 children are in foster care in Tennessee, with nearly half needing a home.
Families who foster come in many shapes and sizes and enter foster care for different reasons. For George and Tracy Young, what began as a general interest in foster care turned into a way to become involved in their community.
“We have a lot to give, and we saw there is a need,” Tracy said.
Move to Tennessee prompts deeper look into foster care
The Youngs had lived in Chicago for 20-plus years when they began looking to move. They wanted to relocate to a different state but had no idea where until Tracy’s uncle recommended the Knoxville area.
“We took a trip to Knoxville and fell in love with the people,” Tracy said. “That’s what brought us here. Our goal was to become a part of a community.”
One way the Youngs, who moved in 2019, saw being part of the Knoxville community was to take a deeper dive into becoming a foster family.
It was about building a sense of community and that includes family. To see the need and hear some of the stories here, it opened our eyes to the opportunity where we felt it was something we could do.
That led the Youngs to researching their options for foster care, and they chose Youth Villages. According to the Youngs, they liked that Youth Villages was a national organization and “felt like they [Youth Villages] fit” them. The Youngs were impressed with the resources Youth Villages made available to foster care parents.
Youngs begin fostering, make impact in children’s lives
In December 2021, the Youngs opened their home and first looked at children ages 6-12 to bring into their home. “Since we didn’t have children of our own, we thought that would be a good age to work with,” Tracy said.
The Youngs’ primary goal was to offer stability to those children placed in their home.
“We wanted to give the kids a chance to relax and be themselves,” Tracy said. “Stability is what we’ve tried to give them so they can get comfortable in their relationships with the people around them.”
The Youngs’ first placement included siblings – a brother and sister. The goal for these children was reunification with their mother and grandmother. The Youngs, though, played more than a role in reunification; they helped the brother fall in love with reading.
According to the Youngs, the boy came into their care when he was in fourth grade but was reading at a lower grade level. In fact, he had shown no interest in reading although the Youngs read with his sister every night. At a school STEM event and book fair, the boy bought some books. From that point forward, he read with them every night.
“That was a big shift for him to show interest because of something we went to do [as a family],” Tracy said.
Up next for the Youngs were two sisters, including one who is 13 years old. “We had a respite with her, and within 24 hours, we fell in love with her,” Tracy said.
One of the girls was anxious about new relationships and spent most of her time on her tablet — her “safe space.” Over time, she’s become more comfortable with meeting others. “To have someone afraid to meet people and create relationships and to see this now, it’s huge,” Tracy said.
The Youngs are now in the process of adopting the sisters. While the family’s focus is on themselves right now, they are open to foster care opportunities in the future. The Youngs give credit to Youth Villages for the support it offers.
“One of the things I found in my reading was that [foster] parents feel really supported by Youth Villages, and we’ve found that to be true in our experiences,” Tracy said. “We’ve had good support for the kids and their needs. Youth Villages has always had a plan, and they keep working on that plan.”