About Tennessee Kids Belong

Tennessee Kids Belong is a 501c(3) affiliate of America’s Kids Belong. Our mission is to improve the experiences and outcomes for kids in foster care in Tennessee.

Our programs include:

Family Recruitment

Family Recruitment

Our flagship video storytelling project, I Belong ProjectTM, elevates the faces, voices and stories of kids in foster care who are legally free to be adopted to connect them with forever families.

Community Engagement

Community Engagement

Our innovative Foster Friendly program and app engage area businesses, faith communities and nonprofits to support kinship and foster parents with discounts, resources and support.

Coalitions for Change

Coalitions for Change

TKB has collaborated with the past two governors’ administrations to launch successful foster care initiatives that have helped the state exceed its recruitment and permanency goals five years in a row!


Our Tennessee Team

Kristin Allender

Kristin Allender

Executive Director

A social worker tied to foster care and adoption for 15+ years, Kristin serves as a bridge between the needs of the kids in foster care and the community resources needed to help all children and families thrive. Kristin also serves as Vice President of State Success with America’s Kids Belong.

Tiffany Kelley

Tiffany Kelley

Associate Director

As a professional in the Child Welfare System for 15 years, Tiffany has worked within the public and private sectors, including for-profit and non-profit organizations, with a passion for supporting and stabilizing children and families “This is my calling as well as my passion.”

Cyndi Higgins

Cyndi Higgins

Projects & Events Manager

Cyndi works closely with DCS to identify children who need videos as part of our I Belong Project and manages our amazing volunteers. Cyndi is committed to helping the vulnerable children who walk through our doors for a video shoot feel welcome, seen and heard.

Stephanie Hamburger

Stephanie Hamburger

Operations Manager

Stephanie has spent most of her career working in various nonprofits benefiting children and spent time volunteering/working in youth ministry. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and is currently working on her Master’s in Public Service Management.

Kristin Miller

Kristin Miller

Community Relations – East Grand Regional Manager

Kristin has served on the leadership team for Knoxville Area Foster Care and Adoption Ministries (KAFCAM) since 2014. She and her husband, Jeremy adopted two daughters from Ghana in 2013 and have two biological sons. A family nurse practitioner Kristin loves to combine medicine and child advocacy to bring healing to vulnerable kids and their families.

Megan Epps

Megan Epps

Community Relations – Middle TN


Megan feels called to be an advocate for underserved groups and a voice for vulnerable children in foster care. She brings eight years experience in the corporate sector including with Deloitte LLP where she spearheaded several Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives. Megan believes intentional diversity is integral to a successful organization.

Katie Dunlap

Katie Dunlap

Community Relations – West TN

As a social worker, pastor’s wife and adoptive mom Katie works to equip faith communities and other community groups to actively engage in foster care and adoption. She works with these groups to implement WRAP and other support programs.

Aisha Ward

Aisha Ward

Community Relations – NE TN

Aisha brings a decade of experience raising awareness about the need for more foster parents and being a voice for vulnerable children in child welfare to her work with TKB. As long as there is a kid in need of a home, Aisha will be in the community, looking for solutions.

Carmen Brown

Carmen Brown

Communications and Marketing Manager

Carmen Brown grew a heart for fostering when her parents provided respite to several of their fostering friends when she was growing up. Carmen has a gift for making kids feel welcome and safe at our I Belong Project shoots. After working for almost a decade in the wellness industry, Carmen came back to her marketing roots to help grow TKB’s reach.

Emily Graffius

Emily Graffius

Community Relations – East TN

Emily leads event planning, fundraising, volunteer recruitment, foster parent support and business partnerships to grow foster care awareness in Chattanooga. She and her husband are foster parents who find great passion and purpose serving vulnerable kids, alongside their two biological children. She also serves as Vice President of the Chattanooga Area Foster Care and Adoptive Association.


Our Board

Steve Martinez

Steve Martinez

Chairman

Steve has served the music industry as an agent, promoter, and artist manager for almost 25 years. In 2015, he relocated to Franklin, TN to start Stonewood Entertainment. After learning of national organization America’s Kids Belong’s mission, Steve and his wife, Jen, registered for PATH training and got involved with Tennessee Kids Belong.

Katy Valesky

Katy Valesky

Treasurer

Katy has advocated in the child welfare system in Tennessee for 15+ years with a focus on influencing policy for at-risk youth, especially those aging out without a supportive adult. Katy holds an MSSW from The University of Tennessee. She resides in Nashville with her husband and two children.

TKB Board Member Velvet Kelm

Velvet Kelm

Secretary

Velvet has been an active supporter of TKB since its inception, Her uses her gifts in P.R. and artist management and development, and as a connector to help bring awareness to vulnerable children in foster care. Professionally her company The Media Collective serves many big names in Nashville and beyond.

TKB Board Member Crissy Haslam

Crissy Haslam

As First Lady of Tennessee from 2011-2019 Crissy advocated for many important children’s issues including foster care and adoption, parent engagement in education and reading proficiency across the state. She supported Imagination Library, third-grade literacy attainment and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). She and Bill have three children and eight grandchildren.

Brandy Whitehead

Brandy Whitehead

Brandy has spent 20 years advocating for vulnerable children in government or for nonprofit organizations. With a Master’s of Science and Social Work from University of Tennessee she worked as a crisis counselor and victim’s advocate in the Davidson County court system. Brandy and her husband, Darren, founded Church of the City In 2013.

Joel Edwards

Joel Edwards

Upon learning in a church services about the need for filmmakers to elevate the faces and voices of kids in foster care, Joel was all-in. His Evolve Studios, produces premium content for Disney, National Geographic, ESPN, Netflix, Facebook, NBC Universal, HBO, Discovery and more. Evolve’s accolades include five national television Emmy’s and 40 nominations.


Download Tennessee Kids Belong’s 2021 Impact Report

FAQ

Here are answers to some common questions we receive about Tennessee Kids Belong.

About TKB

Where are you located?

The Tennessee Kids Belong team covers all of Tennessee. Our central office is located in The Lodge, located at 1229 Lakeview Dr., Franklin, TN 37067. We have employees remotely located in Memphis, Chattanooga and Knoxville.​

How long have you been a 501(c)3?

Tennessee Kids Belong officially launched in January 2016. Since February 2018 TKB has been an affiliate of America’s Kids Belong, with our own 501c(3) and board of directors. Our Tax ID# 82-4703564.

Are you a faith-based entity?

We are not a faith-based non-profit as we work with government, business, creatives, and faith communities. We do a lot of work with churches as Foster Friendly partners to recruit and provide support to help retain foster families.

Do you work in all church denominations? 

Yes, we do.

How are you connected to America’s Kids Belong?

The $1000 is the approximate cost per child which includes but is not limited to: coordination of shoot events, event day materials, travel, camera crew, production, editing, distribution, storage, online hosting, and recruitment for each child. 

Tennessee Kids Belong is an affiliate of America’s Kids Belong, which means we work in support of our shared mission and leverages AKB’s shared-services structure to help our affiliate operate efficiently and keep our state-based resources focused on achieving the mission.

About Our Work

Are you a child-placing agency?

No. All inquiries submitted are immediately directed to the Department of Children’s Services which assesses the potential match with the child. Please note – the first families who are considered are those with current home studies.  If you have not heard back after submitting an inquiry, please email: Karen Chamberlain.

Can you tell me more about this child I saw on your website?

The only information we have available to share is in the child’s bio. The Department of Children’s Services works hard to protect the dignity and confidentiality of each child. Please submit an inquiry online if you would like to be considered as a potential family and learn more about a child. 

Am I allowed to share a child’s video on social media?

Yes! Please do. This is the best way for each child to get the exposure they need to find just the right family. It may be one of your friend’s friends who sees the video and makes the decision to inquire about this specific child OR start them on a foster care journey. 

Do you only focus on adoption? 

Our goal is to educate the community to recognize the deepest need for children in foster care isn’t adoption;  it’s belonging. Whether they find that with a foster, birth, adoptive, respite or support family, children deserve to experience unconditional belonging. Sixty percent of children in the state’s foster care system are eventually reunified with their birth families. We continually advocate for the beauty of reunification when it is safe for the child. 

Do you work with other foster care/adoption related non-profits in the state? 

There are so many great nonprofits in this state doing incredible work. Many are meeting specific local needs. TKB works on a statewide macro level, equipping leaders in various sectors to make a difference for kids in foster care. We often refer to groups to opportunities and needs that other non profits are meeting. We cheer on others in this space and believe collaboration is key.

I am considering fostering. Where do I go for more information? 

Every day we meet individuals and families who are considering taking the leap to become foster parents. We know you probably have a lot of questions and would need more answers before committing. That’s normal. We host monthly panels where you can hear from current foster families, social workers, former foster youth. You will get accurate and authentic information, the chance to ask all your hard questions, with zero commitment. 

​Don’t let fear of the unknown stop you from taking action to support kids in foster care. Check out our blog post here to walk you through what to expect throughout the process. 
What does “available for adoption” mean? Where do the kids live now?

Tennessee Kids Belong has a contract with the Department of Children’s Services to complete videos of children who are available for adoption in TN. What this means- parental rights have been terminated, and at this point, there is not a permanent plan or family identified for the child. Children are often living in group homes or in foster family homes that are unable to keep them long term. 

Working with TKB

How can I volunteer?

Occasionally we have opportunities come up where we could use some help. This is often around the times of our monthly I Belong Project™ video shoots. Volunteers could be helpful with organizing new clothing donations, props for the shoot, set up, clean up, etc. Please note that in order to attend a video shoot and work with the children there will be a background check completed, phone interview with one of our staff, and training the day of the event. We have a very limited number of spaces available for these opportunities.

Fill out our volunteer form, so we can know how to best utilize your help. We are working throughout the state of TN and will contact you when needs arise in your area! 

Do you have internship or employment opportunities?

​We’re currently hiring for several internship opportunities in Memphis and Chattanooga areas. Email your resume to: info@tnkidsbelong.org and be sure to include “Internship Position” in your subject line.

Employment opportunities will be posted on our social media or on Idealist  

We are growing and expanding, so keep checking back! 

About Funding

Where do my donations go? 

Your continued support will be used to:

  • Apply cross-sector expertise to unite and engage government, faith, business & creative communities
  • Form sustainable support systems for foster, adoptive, birth and at-risk families
  • Host high-quality video shoots for waiting kids proven to increase their chances of adoption
  • Provide trauma training and resources to churches and businesses to turn TN into the most “Foster Friendly” state in the country!
  • Lead advocacy and awareness campaigns to turn an invisible issue into a growing initiative
I’ve heard you talk about videos costing $1000 each. What does that cover? 

Our I Belong Project™ video shoot is designed to be a safe, therapeutic date for kids that also encompasses producing a video story of each child to help connect him or her with a forever family. In addition to a videography team our days typically include new clothing for kids, printed photos of each child, frames to decorate, catered lunch for social workers and kids, sports, music, painting, crafts, and games are all a part of the day. Staff travel throughout the state with a production crew to capture the essence of each child’s personality. 

Tennessee Kids Belong has a working relationship with the Department of Children’s Services and manages storage, safety, distribution and upkeep of videos on multiple sites. TKB works on recruitment for each child throughout the year through various forms- social media, print, news articles, churches, events, etc. 

How are you funded?

Tennessee Kids Belong is funded through generous individual donors, grants and foundations who believe in our mission and vision of improving the experiences and outcomes for Tennessee kids in foster care.