DCS commissioner says agency is on right track

DCS commissioner says agency is on right track

Posted:
The Tennessee Department of Children's Services said it's on the right track to improve its operations after a history of failures. The Tennessee Department of Children's Services said it's on the right track to improve its operations after a history of failures.
"It's not a money thing," DCS Commissioner Jim Henry said. "We've got to change culture in Tennessee. We've got to get away from this drug culture." "It's not a money thing," DCS Commissioner Jim Henry said. "We've got to change culture in Tennessee. We've got to get away from this drug culture."
According to a DCS spokesperson, there were 107 child deaths in 2012 involving children who have had pertinent involvement with DCS within the last three years. According to a DCS spokesperson, there were 107 child deaths in 2012 involving children who have had pertinent involvement with DCS within the last three years.

By SAMANTHA MANNING
6 News Reporter

KINGSTON (WATE) - The Tennessee Department of Children's Services said it's on the right track to improve its operations after a history of failures.

6 News sat down with Commissioner Jim Henry when he met with members of the Family Harmony Center in Roane County.

Bicycle riders were taking part in a ride from Nashville to Knoxville as they worked to spread adoption awareness.

"It has been critical that we have a partnership with Children's Services, and they've been fantastic stewards of this cause," Director of Grants & Contracts with Harmony Family Center Michael Yates said.

Yates said the group has been working with Henry, who was appointed in February.

DCS has been pressured for more than a decade to improve its services following a settlement agreement outlining new requirements.

Former commissioner Kate O'Day resigned in February after the department came under fire for issues including a malfunctioning abuse hotline and inaccurate record keeping.

Henry told 6 News the department has since improved its services.

"Our training programs have increased a lot," Henry said. "We've instituted a new child death review, and we will be putting these out on a quarterly basis. It's also about personal responsibility. We can't protect people from every problem."

According to a DCS spokesperson, there were 107 child deaths in 2012 involving children who have had pertinent involvement with DCS within the last three years.

Records show an instance where a child in East Tennessee suffered broken ribs and wounds to his organs before succumbing to the injuries.

6 News asked Henry whether overworked case workers led to these child deaths.

"Gov. Haslam did put more money and more case workers in the budget this year, so we have more case workers working to reduce those staff, but we continue to have too many cases," Henry said. "I think our workers are very busy. I think the caseload should get back to where they need to be, you know. Our lawsuit calls for us to do that."

The settlement agreement calls for the department to have a maximum of 20 cases per worker.

Henry said DCS investigated around 150,000 cases last year and is on track to look into nearly 172,000 this year.

Henry said most DCS cases involve drug abuse.

"It's not a money thing," Henry said. "We've got to change culture in Tennessee. We've got to get away from this drug culture."

Henry also said 18 to 20 percent of calls made to DCS about alleged child abuse turn out to be unsubstantiated, further using up valuable resources.

Despite the growing workload, Henry said he feels the system-wide failures are behind the agency.

"All in all with the problems we've had, I think our folks do a terrific job, and I'm proud of them," Henry said.

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