First off, I don't know much about DCS and other child and family services in Tennessee. But recent stories about deaths of children under DCS supervision are disturbing.
Based on various reports and news stories, though, it doesn't appear this is suddenly a new problem. But the economy has made it worse, and cuts to DCS and other state program funding by Gov. Haslam and the state legislature don't appear to be helping.
Haslam defends DCS and their policies. Instead, he should be ashamed. According to one report, DCS caseworkers in Tennessee, who handle higher than normal caseloads, are paid poverty wages that qualify them for welfare and food stamps. Haslam shut down an MTSU caseworker training program to save money. Haslam and his DCS Commissioner also closed the Taft Youth Development Center, a facility for the "worst of the worst" youth offenders that had a pretty good record in terms of recidivism and high school diplomas.
Haslam also defends his DCS Commissioner, who, on paper, looks pretty good. But then you see she is a product of Leadership Knoxville and "created a business-like management team and organizational model to ensure fiscal and programmatic accountability" at the child and family services "non-profit" she ran before taking the DCS post. Those sound like red flags to me.
There also appears to be a problem with state policy, which gives preference to keeping children in their parents' homes, sometimes in dangerous or abusive situations.
Haslam wants to run the state like a business. He appears to be running it at a loss, in the worst sense of the term, with tragic results.
Anyway, following are some articles with background for discussion.
• 31 Tennessee kids died in first 6 months of this year, DCS reports
• Area cuts no surprise to DCS officials
• Haslam says DCS acted appropriately in child death cases
• Governor: No evidence of wrongdoing in deaths of children
• Tennessee Department of Children's Services criticized for data delay
• Concerns Arise Of Department Of Children Services Practices
• Bredesen: DCS Faces $73M Federal Cut
• Haslam budget cuts local DCS facilities
• New Commissioner: Don't Dismantle DCS Just Yet
• Local DCS Office May Close Due To Tight Budget
• Budgeting Decisions: Filmkakers vs. Child Abuse?
• Center for Child Welfare to Close, Family Service Agencies Cut
• Officials make case to save Taft Youth Development Center
• Tennessee House OKs Taft Youth Center closure
• MTSU Tennessee Center for Child Welfare
• DCS Commissioner Kathryn "Kate" O'Day
• Child Welfare League of America Tennessee fact sheet
• Kids Count Tennessee profile
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