DCS: 31 children it investigated died this year

DCS: 31 children it investigated died this year

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By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A new report documents the difficulties in protecting Tennessee children who are growing up in troubled homes.

The Tennessean and state Rep. Sherry Jones (D-Nashville) pressed the Department of Children's Services for records.

Those records show case after case of children dying who either were or had been the subject of DCS investigations.

DCS was also supposed to report this information to state lawmakers. A law, passed in 2005, requires DCS to inform lawmakers of each child death.

DCS admits for the past seven years it has failed to send notifications.

State Rep. Ryan Haynes (R-Knoxville) hopes DCS doesn't violate the law again. "There's a reason why we passed that law and that's to make sure that we know that the Department of Children's Services is functioning properly," he said.

DCS Executive Director for Child Safety Carla Aaron admits since the law passed in 2005, the department never sent out notifications.

"I don't know why it hasn't been done up until now, but I assure you it will be done moving forward," Aaron said.

According to DCS data from January to June of this year, four children have died while in state custody. Aaron says most died from prior abuse or neglect.

Ten children died while DCS had an open investigation. Two were from Knox County. DCS says one child died from pre-natal drug exposure, the other from medical issues.

"At least three of these children were born with some type of drug exposure in their system. They started our investigation, then sometime during that investigation they died," Aaron said.

Seventeen children died after a DCS case was closed. A one year old drowned in Knoxville in April. Police say the child was left alone in a bath tub.

Another child's cause of death was unknown.

Several others were listed as unsafe sleeping or medical issues.

Rep. Haynes says he wished he had this information earlier, as required by law. "It's heartbreaking as lawmakers, it's really important for us to know what's happening with our children in this state so that we can pass additional laws if need be to keep our children safe," he said.

"Thirty-one children died. That's horrible, and we don't want any children in Tennessee to die, but I think looking at the causes of death really need to be noted," Aaron said.

DCS says many of the causes of death couldn't have been predicted. They say the risk factors weren't there.

Five children died in the first six months of 2011.

DCS says if you see signs of abuse or neglect, report it. Officials also add that many other options and services are provided before removing a child from his or her family.

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