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Adoption procedures work to put kids in the right homes in Tennessee

There are more than 800 kids in need of permanent homes in Tennessee.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — There are no updates in horrific child abuse case that spans two counties.

We are still waiting on autopsy reports on two children; one found at a home in Roane County, another in Knox County.

The defendants, Michael Anthony Gray Sr. and his wife Shirley Gray will face a preliminary hearing next Tuesday, June 9.

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There are still a lot of unanswered questions as to why those children ended up in the care of the Grays.

We will have to wait on those answers as the investigation unfolds

In the meantime, we take a closer look at the adoption protocols in place today to make sure kids go to the right homes.

Right now, there are more than 800 kids in need of permanent home in Tennessee.

Finding the right and safest fit for those children is what places like the Harmony Family Center works daily to do. 

"The bulk of our work surrounds adoption and surrounds kids in foster care in need of permanency," COO Nicole Coning explained."

"We like to think of Harmony as the very very beginning piece of a child coming into custody to the very end of them achieving permanency and that we are with the family every step of the way."

Coning says Tennessee's adoption process is strict compared to other states.

"In Tennessee we've always had a really stringent process whether that's for foster parents or adoptive parents. It's invasive, involves commitment and time on the prospective parent to go through that process," Coning said

A thorough process that includes a look at family, medical and psychological history, finger printing, and background checks.

Once interested adopters have achieved that, an 8 hour adoption prep training course follows.

"I love the fact that DCS has made this mandatory for families," Coning said. "It lays a great foundation for what to expect in the future and making sure they are thoroughly prepared and adopting for the right reasons."

Coning explains there are differences private, domestic or in-country adoptions as well as children adopted through the child welfare system.

"In Tennessee you cannot adopt through the child welfare system without first being an approved foster parent," Coning said.

As an adoption is completed, families will be assigned a permanency specialist to help navigate that transition. 

Harmony does periodic outreach and is available for families to reach out if the need support in the future, but its a choice left up to each family.

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"This is something families self-refer for, and the other way they can come to our attention or departments attention is someone sending a referral or DCS investigation," Coning said.

Child advocates say even with the most intense vetting during foster and adoption processes, there are people out there with ill-intent.

If you see child abuse and neglect you can report it at 877-237-0004.

If you're interested in becoming a foster parent or adopting you can find more resources on the Harmony Family Center's website.