For over forty years, one of the nation’s oldest and largest organizations dedicated to the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect has been Childhelp USA. The Tennessee regional office located in West Knoxville opened in 1995 as a multidisciplinary facility for interviewing, examining and helping child abuse victims. They will soon be opening the Childhelp USA Tennessee Village of East Tennessee on fifty acres of what used to be known as Brookhaven Farm in upper northeast Blount County, just west of Seymour.
The Village is being designed to provide a continuum of services to abused children through a network of specially trained therapeutic foster families established by the Childhelp Foster Family Agency, along with day treatment and intensive residential therapy. The goal of the Village is to help children heal: mentally, physically and spiritually. The Village will serve children from East Tennessee and will offer an individual treatment plan for each child, as well as a wide range of therapeutic programs.
Children being placed in residential treatment at the Village will live in three 8-bed cottages (eight children in residence with a ninth bed in reserve.) New village facilities will include a barn and riding ring, which is part of the animal therapy program, and an interdenominational chapel. Other offerings will include a range of other therapies such as art and play, an on-grounds school and a computer-learning lab.
Two existing buildings on the property have been renovated. One is the multi-purpose building, which will house the activity center, the school, a kitchen, a dining hall, administration offices and the foster family agency. The other is the treatment center, which is where housing, therapeutic services and offices will be located plus the library, a nurse’s station and the computer lab.
In fiscal year 2002 at least 91 cents of every dollar spent by Childhelp USA went directly to programs benefiting abused children. All funds raised by Childhelp USA Tennessee go to Tennessee programs.
According to Childhelp USA’s “Foster Family Profile” foster parents are diverse, hailing from a variety of backgrounds. They can be as young as 21 or retired seniors.
All good foster parents share similar attributes such as patience, tenacity, attentiveness, empathy, the willingness to learn from the experience of fostering and the ability to provide guidance to children with diverse backgrounds and challenges. They must also be able to provide a safe living environment, adequate space for the child and be financially stable.
Potential Childhelp USA therapeutic foster parents are screened through a series of interviews, background checks, training and home evaluations. They must also complete 45 hours of training, including a 30-hour Parents As Tender Healers (PATH) training course. Childhelp provides the foster parent(s) with a case manager, 24-hour on call support, respite care, financial reimbursement for many expenses associated with fostering and medical, dental and psychological coverage through TennCare for each child.
A meeting is scheduled for September 22 at the Seymour location now being called “Smoky Mountain Haven,” formerly known as Brookhaven Farm. The purpose of the meeting is to begin the next class of potential foster family caregivers. For more information about becoming a Childhelp USA foster parent, call the Childhelp USA Foster Family Agency at (865) 755-6127.