Tennessee Children Face High Instability in Foster Care, Limited Access to Mental Health Services and Other Challenges |  Chattanooga Times Free Press

Tennessee Children Face High Instability in Foster Care, Limited Access to Mental Health Services and Other Challenges | Chattanooga Times Free Press

Unstable foster care, poor access to mental health treatment and high childcare costs are among the biggest challenges facing Tennessee children and their caregivers, according to a report at the scale of the state released Wednesday.

While rates of youth depression in Tennessee are similar to or lower than the United States as a whole, Tennessee ranks in the bottom five states for ensuring children receive treatment for depressive episodes. adults, according to the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth’s The State of the Child 2022 report.

The annual report provides an overview of the well-being of children in the state based on the most recent data available. It is intended to guide the Tennessee government and other stakeholders in making data-driven improvements to systems that support children and families in the state.

“Young people across the country are twice as likely to receive treatment (for depression) and, in the highest performing state, four times more likely to receive treatment, compared to young people in Tennessee,” says one. the commission’s press release on the report, which said 71.1% of young people who experience a major depressive episode in Tennessee do not receive treatment, compared to 60% nationally.

(READ MORE: Children’s mental health crisis is a national emergency, experts say. Here’s where to get help in Chattanooga.)

Pennsylvania, followed by Maine, was the top performing state in terms of prevalence of mental illness and access to care for young people, according to the data source cited by the report.

A significant mental health workforce shortage in the state, combined with growing demand, was largely to blame for Tennessee’s access issues, the report said.

Among other findings, Tennessee is “battling foster home instability at a level not seen in the rest of the country,” according to the press release.

The report cites federal data showing that the percentage of children in foster care in Tennessee who changed placements three or more times in the first 12 months of custody significantly exceeded all other states from 2016 to 2020. In 2020, nearly 34% of foster children in Tennessee changed placements three or more times in the first year.

Puerto Rico had the second-closest rate of instability, with around 26% of foster children undergoing three or more placement changes in the first 12 months, according to the report – which also references a recent audit which revealed unsafe conditions for children in the Tennessee department. Support for Children’s Services.

The cost of child care also poses a significant challenge for many Tennessees. The report found that the average cost of care for an infant and 4-year-old is 81% higher ($19,539) than the average annual cost of rent for all housing types in the state ($10,764) .

In addition, about 25% of families spend more than 30% of their monthly income on housing and/or regularly report not having enough to eat.

Despite the challenges, the number of children living in poverty in Tennessee has reached an all-time high, with the percentage of children living in poverty declining by 8% between 2019 and 2021, according to the report.

“Some counties, particularly rural counties, have seen even greater declines. Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties have seen overall child poverty decline by 29% and 26% respectively,” the statement said.

The report attributes this improvement to child tax credits and state investments in rural communities.

“Additional state and federal intervention can build resilience and support the health and well-being of families with children,” the statement said. “Increased investment in our children, youth and families can prevent these challenges or mitigate the negative effects. The choices we make to meet the needs of children and support their development will determine the future health, economic and community success of our state.

Contact Elizabeth Fite at efite@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.

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