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Campbell County Program Helps ‘Relatives Raising Relatives’

LAFOLLETTE (WATE) – The opioid epidemic has touched just about every family in one way or another, as well as so many children. In Campbell County alone, the majority of children removed from their homes are placed with a relative. In most instances, it’s a grandparent on a fixed income, with limited resources, now raising kids again.

The Campbell County Children’s Center offers a program just for those “new” parents called “Relatives Raising Relatives.”

Tabitha Metcalf and her family are among many benefiting from the program. She already had three almost-grown children when she got a call from the Department of Children’s Services right after Thanksgiving 2012, saying her four nieces and nephews needed help.

“I was asked if I could come pick them up at DCS. It was out of the blue. I had no idea that anything was going on,” Metcalf said.

Metcalf is the children’s aunt by marriage. She says she didn’t know about drug abuse in the home. How could she say no to four little ones who needed her?

Providing love was easy. Providing everything else on a tight budget was another thing.

“Four kids may not seem like a lot, but it really is! So, you know, it was tough,” Metcalf recalled.

Metcalf was able to get a lot of help at the Campbell County Children’s Center. Case manager Maggie Inscho worked with Metcalf. She was able to help with diapers, wipes, a pack and play, and gave her information on other resources.

It’s all part of the Relatives Raising Relatives program funded by a $50,000 grant through the LaFollette Medical Foundation. There is no state or federal funding. The grant pays for the program’s case manager. It was developed by Campbell County Children’s Center’s CEO Tracie Davis.

“A lot of the grandparents, if they’re just out in town, stop by and say, ‘It’s getting close to the end of the month. I’m running short on diapers. Can you help me?” Davis says.

It’s not just about providing diapers.

“There wasn’t anything available that would allow us to go to the homes of the grandparents and just sit down and say, ‘What are your concerns? And, I just want you to know that I’m going to be in court with you when you go to court and I’ll be there,'” Davis explains.

Davis says 65 percent of children removed from their homes in Campbell County are being placed with relatives. At the heart of the issue is the opioid epidemic.

“In the state of Tennessee, we have seen an increase because what happens with the epidemic with pain pills, when children are removed, the state’s first goal is to try to figure out how to keep those children within the family unit,” Davis said.

At the Center, there is a small room where children are made to feel comfortable in sharing their story and an exam room with a tiny gown – heartbreaking but necessary in determining the toughest cases of abuse.

Metcalf learned she was getting the four kids right before Christmas 2012. It was the Children’s Center and the tightly knit community that helped provide Christmas gifts. They also helped with resources to add three bedrooms and a bathroom to the family home.

Today, there are kindergarten parties, Halloween costumes, photos marking milestones in the kids’ lives, and lots of hugs – things you’ll find in the home of a happy family.

“They’ve made me learn a lot about myself, about not being so quick to judge other people, other people’s situations. They just, literally, we couldn’t imagine our lives without them,” Metcalf said.

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