Blount Co. Foster Couple Says Child was Taken over Religion

A Blount County foster family says the Department of Children's Services (DCS) has taken the child they were caring for because of their religion.

Now, the couple has closed their home to foster children, after the 14-year-old girl was sent back to a group home.

Before their daughter was born last year, Billy and Keri Johnson always wanted kids. However, they thought they couldn't have any and decided to help foster children instead.

Since then, 10 foster kids have passed through the Johnson's doors. All the kids have gone to church with them.

"My foster children choose what they want to be. But when they're in my home, I have to supervise them. And if they have to go to church, they go there and sit there with a book or a CD player. That's their decision, not my decision to make for them," Billy Johnson said.

Billy Johnson is a Jehovah's Witness who goes to meetings every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

When the 14-year-old girl complained, the DCS said Johnson couldn't take her to meetings and had to provide care for her.

Johnson said the state wouldn't pay for care and he wasn't taking her to change her beliefs, only to supervise her. "I don't care if it was my foster child or a regular child, a 14-year-old doesn't need to stay home alone at night when there's boys running around. That doesn't work. That doesn't happen."

Johnson cites the foster parents' bill of rights that states they should be allowed to continue family values and routines. He said the DCS has a double standard and wouldn't have a problem if he were a different religion.

"I don't care who they are or what they are. Just because I'm a Jehovah's Witness and they're Baptist or non-denominational doesn't mean I should have to pay for someone to come and supervise these children when they don't. That's wrong."

The DCS' Blount County coordinator told 6 News Thursday that foster children come from a variety of religious backgrounds and if children are old enough, they can be removed if they don't feel comfortable in a foster home.

The coordinator said DCS doesn't discriminate on the basis of religion.