Hats Off To Hatter

Written By Sydnee Brashears

Adoption is an often overlooked but important step in taking care of the least of these. Whether adopted at birth or late in life, finding a steady home is incredibly vital step
to the well-being of the child’s mental and physical health. When the original home can be improved, and the child or teen can stay in their own area, their own school, that is considered the best case scenario. It’s this scenario that Michelle Hatter works hard to achieve: that the home can be returned to, or that can find an area home where the child will be safe and loved until they’re ready to make their mark in the world.

Michelle works for and is in charge of Camelot Care Center, Inc. As a private care industry, Camelot Care Center works with the Department of Children’s Services by taking care of the children who come into DCS custody in the state of Tennessee. Children and teens who go into DCS custody have been put there on a hopefully temporary hold the home is being evaluated for abuse, neglect, or is in some other way unfit for the child to stay in. Camelot Care Center helps find those safe homes for the children to wait in.

The branch owned by Michelle Hatter covers Knoxville and the thirteen surrounding counties, but the Camelot Care name stretches across all of Tennessee. They are known for their excellent customer service, support, training, and home studies. Doing all that she can to ensure the family is ready for the responsibility of raising a child, Michelle sees 1 in 4 children adopted by foster families. The other ~75% she hopes to restore to their former homes.

The Camelot Care Center doesn’t just let the child loose with an inexperienced family, however. All families receive complimentary training according to a child’s level of trauma. These trauma levels come in stages- 1, 2, and 3. Three is the highest, and needs the most care and attention. After and during training the potential parents, they provide therapy and emotional support for the child or teenager due to the trauma of being taken  away from their  home. And, if the child or teen is returned home, they negotiate where the foster family can come visit for birthdays or other special occasions. A child’s average stay is about a year, and 24% are adopted within that time. Michelle’s biggest goal, however, is to return the child to their biological parents. After that, the foster family can maintain a mentoring relationship with the minor.

There is another option called a respite home for foster parents who do not wish to do so full-time. These stays are typically 1-10 days.

“The biggest thing we need right now are homes in the Monroe County.” Michelle Hatter says. “When children are removed, our idea is that we want kids to stay in community they know. The school they know.” Unfortunately, there are not enough homes in the Loudon and Monroe area to fulfill the needs of the children and teenagers in their program. While the ages of the children go anywhere from newborn to 18, the biggest age group needed to be adopted are the kids aged 5-12. The second largest need is teenagers. Michelle remarked that they’re easier to get along with because of their communication skills, but it’s harder to find someone willing to foster or adopt them. “It’s so sad to see them age out of the system.”

“My husband and I are in the process of adopting a dog.” Michelle said, “And it’s so sad to see them in their cages. They’re waiting for someone to love them. It reminded me of the kids. They’ve been removed from their homes because their parents were neglectful or abusive. They’re waiting for a home.”

Kids in the foster system often lose confidence in their own abilities. They blame themselves for the neglect and abuse they’ve suffered. They believe they’ll never amount to anything if even their parents didn’t love them. Michelle Hatter has a small trick to helping them realize that they aren’t broken just because their home has been. She keeps a list of famous people who’ve been adopted so they can see that the circumstances they find themselves in do not have to define who they are. Among the list is my favorite writer, Maya Angelou, and household names such as John Lennon, Faith Hill, Steve Jobs, and Eddie Murphy. This encourages the children to thrive despite the hardships they face.

Becoming a family is a rigorous process, of course. To protect the minors in their care, all families must undergo trauma training. While marriage is not
a requirement, a steady income as well as transportation is. You also must be 25 or older, and either be a renter or a homeowner in the state of Tennessee. If you are mentally or physically disabled, you need a note from a medical professional that you are fit to take care of children. I. e. Provide meals and transportation. All children are insured by a background check, screening, and TennCare, and monetary compensation is provided by the state in order to care for the children under your care. If you qualify for these conditions, please consider. There is a form online, “How to Become a Foster Parent,” it can be filled out for more information and to speak with a Camelot team member.

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