Tim & Amanda Smith
TJC is excited to honor Tim and Amanda Smith as 2021 Parents of the Year for their incredible work taking in medically fragile foster children and raising amazing children of their own. Tim and Amanda are both from Tennessee. They have 2 grown children and 4 younger children they call “the littles” at home, along with a foster child they have had in their home for three years. One of the foster children they took in who they have since adopted, Miracle, has stage 5 renal failure and is waiting to get a kidney transplant.
Tim works as a pediatric nurse and Amanda now stays home and keeps very busy looking after all the children, but she used to work as a caregiver at nursing homes and with hospice care. About three years ago, Amanda was working at a children’s hospital and she was assigned to work at a unit that she realized was for all the children that they could not find homes for. Amanda realized that was not right and that those children deserved a place to live and people to love them. Amanda shared that “we have bedrooms and I can stay home to care for the children”. They have been fostering children for about three years and usually “take the severest of the severe” children who often have many medical needs. The couple thinks around 13-14 foster children have gone through their home and they have adopted two of the children.
They described Miracle as having a big personality for such a little person. She is non-mobile but loves to play with her 6-year-old sibling who has cerebral palsy and is also best friends with the foster child living with them. Amanda described how helpful her older children are and how they never complain and always jump in wherever their help is needed. She shared how easy it can be to get distracted by the medically needy children who require a lot of care and attention, but wanted to remind other families in similar situations to not lose focus of taking care of the healthy children as well, as they also need attention and care.
The Smiths adopted Miracle in February of 2020, right before the pandemic began. Part of the adoption agreement was that Miracle could keep her TennCare as secondary insurance, but TennCare switched her MCO without consulting with the family. This resulted in TennCare telling the family that Miracle’s nursing hours would be reduced and refusing to pay for her blood pressure medication that is about $800/month. The Smiths shared that “it was a disaster”. Amanda spent hours and hours on the phone and no one could give her any answers. Miracle needed her blood pressure medication and her parents worried they would have to take her to the emergency room if she could not get it. The family “felt like we were going to sink” given Miracle’s incredibly high medical costs and the lack of support from TennCare. The family reached out to TJC and worked with Heavyn Jennings. Luckily, Miracle’s medication was approved for a year and she has 120 weekly nursing hours. Amanda describes how reaching out to TJC helped to take some of the weight off her shoulders.
Miracle has now been switched back to BlueCare and she also has social workers through her transplant team who have been very helpful in reaching out to the family and helping them get additional benefits. The family does not use night nurses because they want a sense of normalcy for the family, so Tim and Amanda take turns getting up throughout the night to care for Miracle. Tim and Amanda are kept very busy now with their family, but in the past, they have been involved with their church and Tim was involved with the local fire department for about 18 years. When they have foster children, their focus is on “helping get these kids home”. They try to talk to the children’s parents or grandparents to show them that caring for medically needy children is not as scary as they think. When the children do go back to their biological families, the Smiths often stay in touch with them and support them. They said that Miracle’s biological family calls every week to check on her and they joke that they had Miracle for the Smiths and that she was meant to be their baby. TJC is honored to recognize Amanda and Tim Smith for their inspirational work opening their home to foster children and creating an amazing family where all their children feel loved and cared for.
Photo Credit: Dani Rose