Placement of Children With Relatives - Tennessee

Date: September 2022

Relative Placement for Foster Care and Guardianship

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 37-2-403(d); 37-2-414

Whenever a child is removed from their home and placed in the custody of the Department of Children's Services, the department shall seek to place the child with a fit and willing relative if such placement provides for the safety and best interests of the child. Whenever a return of a child to their parent is determined not to be in the best interests of the child, then the relative with whom the child has been placed shall be given priority for permanent placement or adoption of the child prior to pursuing adoptive placement of such child with a nonrelative.

When a child has been removed from their home and is in the care, custody, or guardianship of the department, the department shall attempt to place the child with a relative for kinship foster care.

Relatives within the first, second, or third degree to the parent or stepparent of the child through blood, marriage, or adoption may be eligible for approval.

When a child has been removed from the home of one parent and is in the care, custody, or guardianship of the department, the department shall consider and evaluate the child's other natural or adoptive parent, if available, for placement before considering any other relative. The child's other natural or adoptive parent is not eligible for the kinship foster care program or any payments for kinship foster care under the program.

Requirements for Placement with Relatives

Citation: Ann. Code § 37-2-414

If the relative is approved to provide foster care services, they may receive payment for the full foster care rate for the care of the child and any other benefits that might be available to foster parents, whether in money or in services.

The department shall establish, in accordance with the provisions of this section, eligibility standards for becoming a kinship foster parent. These standards include the following:

  • The kinship foster parent must be age 21 or older, except that if the spouse or partner of the relative is age 21 or older and living in the home, and the relative is between age 18 and 21, the department may waive the age requirement.
  • A person may become a kinship foster parent only upon the completion of an investigation to ascertain if there is a State or Federal record of criminal history for the prospective kinship foster parent or any other adult residing in the prospective parent's home.
  • A prospective kinship foster parent shall supply fingerprint samples and submit to a criminal history records check to be conducted by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Requirements for Placement of Siblings

Citation: Ann. Code § 37-2-420

An agency shall provide a child in foster care with contact information for each sibling who is also in foster care and who is not placed in the same home as the child if maintaining contact with the sibling is in the best interests of each sibling. A child in foster care must not be punished for behavioral problems by restricting contact with the child's sibling.

As used in this section, the term 'sibling' includes full siblings, half-siblings, and stepsiblings.

Relatives Who May Adopt

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 36-1-102(45); 36-1-115

A person may seek to adopt a child who is related to them. The term 'related' means grandparents or any degree of great-grandparents, the siblings of a parent or grandparent, a stepparent, cousins of the first degree, any siblings of the whole or half degree, or any spouse of these relatives.

If the child becomes available for adoption while in foster care, the foster parents shall be given first preference to adopt the child if the child has resided in the foster home for 12 or more consecutive months immediately preceding the filing of an adoption petition.

Requirements for Adoption by Relatives

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 36-1-115; 36-1-116

In the case of an adoption by relatives, the requirement to have been a resident of the State for at least 6 months shall not apply if the petitioner is an actual resident of this State at the time the petition is filed.

In becoming adoptive parents, the foster parents shall meet all requirements otherwise imposed on persons seeking to adopt children in the custody of the department and shall be subject to all other provisions of this part.

The court may waive the requirement for a home study or a preliminary home study concerning the suitability of an adoptive parent applicant's home and themselves as adoptive parents when the child is to be adopted by related persons. The court also may waive the requirement for postplacement supervision when the child is to be adopted by related persons.