Bentley’s Law Now Live in Tennessee: The Tragic Lives of Children Left Behind

Bentley’s Law Now Live in Tennessee: The Tragic Lives of Children Left Behind

February 10, 2023 Off By Glespynorson

Recently, the state of Tennessee passed a law titled “Bentley’s Law” that requires drunk drivers to pay for child support until the age of 18 if they kill a parent.

The new law is the result of Cecilia Williams, a resident of Missouri, whose grandson, Bentley, was orphaned when his parents and 4-month-old brother were killed on April 13, 2021, in a car crash.

Car crashes happen all too often these days and have the ability to snatch the lives of people we love. The U.S. Department of Transportation tells us that in 2021, over 42,915 people lost their lives in automobile accidents.

That is not an insignificant amount of people to die in a single year. Every single death brings sorrow and pain to the families left behind.

Over 20 other states besides Tennessee are now considering adopting Bentley’s law which has the potential to make a difference in the lives of caregivers and surviving children. To understand how serious the situation can be for children, it is important to understand what happens to them when they lose their primary caregivers.

1. Extended Family Takes the Orphaned Children In

This is what most commonly occurs after children have been orphaned. Uncles, Aunts, and even Grandparents often become the guardians of the children. This is the most ideal option as, in most cases, the children have good, pre-existing relationships with them.

Close family members are familiar with how to raise them, having already been a part of their lives to some extent.

This introduces challenges when financial situations make it tough for the new caregivers to afford the high costs that child-rearing involves, and it can also be a difficult situation when the new caregivers do not have great relationships with the children’s parents.

Child neglect is a possibility in such situations, and there’s very little that can be done without putting the child in an even more desperate situation.

2. They Are Adopted

In cases where other family members are not present or unable to care for the child, adoption often occurs. The adopting party may be a close family friend, church member, or well-wisher. Adopting a child who has lost his or her parents is a complex process that requires the support of many different individuals and agencies.

Adopting a child often requires you to undergo an evaluation of your home and family, background checks, checks on one’s financial situation, and interviews with family members. The purpose of this is to ensure that the child will be living in a safe and nurturing environment and will be provided for.

It doesn’t end there, though. Adopters often have to undergo training on topics such as child development, parenting skills, and learning how to take care of children who have experienced trauma and loss. At the end of it all, legal clearance is given, and the adoption process is finalized.

Due to its complex nature, working with an adoption agency and law firm is almost always needed. Attorneys in Murfreesboro, TN, can be highly experienced in custody-related cases because the city is home to some of the oldest law firms in the state, some of which date back over a hundred years old.

Law firms can help you out here as they usually have established channels of communication with the relevant authorities, along with experience in navigating complex protocols and paperwork.

There are often sudden disputes from family members who, until then, wouldn’t bother to intervene in the situation. Handling such situations can be difficult without assistance from lawyers.

3. The Children Go Into Foster Care

When a child loses their primary caregivers and has no one to turn to, they may become a part of the foster care system. The foster care system is a government-run program that provides temporary homes for children who are unable to live with their biological families.

Typically, Child Protective Services (CPS) get involved when someone reports that the child is in need of care and support. If the child is found to be in danger, CPS will take steps to place them in temporary foster care.

Once in foster care, the focus moves to finding an adopter for the child. Sadly, many children often spend years in foster homes until they are adopted. The system is deeply flawed and fails to prepare children adequately, with a large portion facing difficulties in education and surviving once out of foster care.


Bentley’s Law is a welcome law that brings a little relief to those who are able to take in the child. This could be the surviving parent or a concerned relative who will now receive some form of monetary compensation that can go towards providing a better life for the child.

The trauma and pain of losing one’s parents are extreme, and the recovery period can be a life-long struggle.

Bentley’s Law has the potential to bring change into the child’s life, even if it is only in the form of child support payments. It allows relatives and friends to raise the child and keeps them out of the foster care system. While a welcome development, it is still too less, and much more is needed to ensure full, holistic rehabilitation of the child.