TRACES Foster Care honored for service to region’s children

Published 5:59 pm Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A foster care program that serves children in need throughout the region was honored Wednesday by the State Legislature.

During a “Support In Motion” luncheon for the TRACES Foster Care & Adoption program through Frontier Health, State Sen. Rusty Crowe, State Rep. John Holsclaw, and State Rep. Timothy Hill presented the program with a Senate Resolution honoring the agency for their years of “outstanding service to children.”

The TRACES Foster Care & Adoption program provides services to children and teens up to the age of 18 that are in state’s custody due to abuse or neglect in their homes and those who have behavioral or emotional problems. Some of the children are in the program short-term while others remain in the program for years. TRACES operates in Northeast Tennessee while their sister program through Frontier Health, VALUES, serves children just across the state line in Virginia.

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As part of Wednesday’s luncheon to raise awareness and support for the program, those in attendance got to hear the stories of some people involved in the foster care system from a variety of viewpoints.

Meg Ashworth and her husband Chris are foster parents through TRACES.

“We have fostered children for 24 years,” Meg Ashworth said.

During that time they have had 24 long-term placements in their home and 70 or more that were short term or emergency care.

Working with the foster program also changed her own family, Meg Ashworth said. She and her husband adopted one of the children who was placed into foster care at their home.

“We got him when he was four-and-a-half years old,” she said. “We adopted him when he was eight.”

Their adopted son is now 17 and a member of the ROTC with plans to join the Air Force, Meg Ashworth said.

Those in attendance also heard from Brandon Sponaugle, who grew up in a foster care system where not all the stories were happy ones.

“I went into foster care at age three. My mom went to jail for fraud, and my father signed away his parental rights,” Sponaugle said, adding this was in New York. “These foster parents locked me in dog cages. They weren’t good parents. They were in it for the money, I guess.”

When he was eight years old, he was returned to his mother’s custody, and the family moved to Virginia. But, about six months later, he was back in foster care due to abuse in the home. This time, Sponaugle said, he was separated from his brother and sister.

“During my time in foster care I was thrown from home to home to home, about 12 or 15 homes in different states,” he said.

Finally, Sponaugle ended up in the care of a foster family through the VALUES program in Virginia. He stayed there until he was 19 years old. He is now 22.

“The last foster home I went to was the best foster family I had been with,” I still call them. I have Thanksgiving with them. They are my second family.”

Sponaugle is now married with one child and a second on the way. As his own family grows, Sponaugle said he wants to become a foster parent in the future.

The keynote speaker at the luncheon was WCYB news anchor Julie Newman, whose parents fostered children. She recalled while her mother was pregnant with her that her parents were fostering an infant boy, and that situation led to some interesting questions for the family.

Even after her father passed away when she was young, Newman said her mother continued to foster children as a single mom working as a nurse.

“My mom ended up keeping foster years for 25 years,” Newman said.

While her mother’s decision to foster children made an impact in the lives of those kids, Newman said it made a tremendous impact in her own life.

“It taught me about compassion, about giving, about helping others, and about sharing,” Newman said. “Most importantly, it taught me that not everyone had the same opportunities as I did. Not everyone had the same kind of parents.”

For more information on the TRACES or VALUES foster care programs or how you can get involved to help, contact Frontier Health Foundation at 423-467-3742 or by e-mail at