Tennessee DCS commissioner resigns

Tennessee DCS commissioner resigns

Kate O'Day (Source: tn.gov) Kate O'Day (Source: tn.gov)

6 News Reporter

NASHVILLE (WATE/AP) - The head of the state's Department of Children's Services (DCS), Commissioner Kate O'Day, resigned from her post, Gov. Bill Haslam announced Tuesday.

O'Day has come under scrutiny in recent months, with some lawmakers calling for her resignation.

DCS has been beset by problems over the past year, including improper payments to foster parents, not reporting child fatalities to lawmakers and data problems that mean the agency can't provide accurate information about children in its care.

"Kate has informed me that she felt the time was right to step down," Haslam said.  "She was concerned that she had become more of a focus than the children the department serves. I appreciate Kate's service to this administration and to our state.  She has done a lot of good work in identifying longstanding problems that have hampered the department, and we will build on those efforts as we move forward."

O'Day joined the Haslam administration in January 2011. 

But just last Tuesday, reporters questioned Haslam as to whether he was happy with O'Day as commissioner.

"I think what's happened here is there has been some confusion about the information that's there. The state, not just the department, but the state has felt like we had to follow the law, specific state statutes about the information we can release," Gov. Haslam said.

When asked if he supported her, the answer wasn't clear.

"Listen, Commissioner O'Day is like everyone else in our administration. At the end of the day, we have a job to do and she knows that and understands that. We know that we will do better in making certain the interests of the children of Tennessee are protected," Gov. Haslam responded on the same day.

Senators on the Health and Welfare committee are preparing for a Wednesday hearing about DCS record keeping and the complaint investigation process.

Senators Randy McNally and Becky Massey, who both sit on the committee, say they don't think the resignation has anything to do with the hearing.

"I believe that she felt that there was a lot of interest and focus on her, rather than on the department, and I think she felt it was best to step down," Sen. McNally explained.

Sen. McNally says O'Day came into a tough situation in the department and doesn't think her impact on DCS will be known for awhile.

Prior to her position as commissioner, O'Day served as president and chief executive officer of Child & Family Tennessee in Knoxville. 

Gov. Haslam has named Commissioner Jim Henry, who currently heads up the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD), to serve as interim commissioner of DCS.

The governor will immediately begin a search for a new commissioner of DCS.

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