NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The issues facing DCS are nothing new.
“We have workers who are extremely passionate but are extremely overworked and underpaid,” Senate Minority Leader Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) said.
Democrat leaders came together this week, urging Gov. Bill Lee to implement executive action after a new report showed serious issues surrounding the foster system in Tennessee.
“Raise salaries,” Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) said. “Commit to a case cap for these workers.”
The report shows in 2020, one in eight children in custody were reentering after less than a year. It’s creating a demand that the supply of foster families cannot keep up with.
“We’ve now got more than more than seven million Tennesseans in our state,” House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) said. “Surely, we have more families that can step up and help us help these children.”
Both Republicans and Democrats agree there is a need for more foster families in Tennessee. But calling for executive action draws a stark contrast.
“Government is not the solution to all our problems,” Lamberth said. “Governor Lee says that all the time.”
“To think that you can fix it within a week or two weeks, it’s going to take time,” Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) said, separately. “He’s already sent in an expansion letter to increase the pay of DCS staff. That’s coming, he’ll put it back in the budget this year.”
Regardless, both sides agree that a fix needs to come soon because DCS is in dire need.
“At some jobs, maybe somebody doesn’t get their hamburger,” Johnson said. “But if you don’t do everything you can do at Children’s Services, a child could die.”
Sexton did mention there would be a meeting between the department and the Finance, Ways and Means Committee in the next couple of weeks.
“We’re going to have them come before us and have that conversation on exactly what that money’s going to be used for and how it’s going to be used,” he said. “So, we’re going to try and get some transparency out of it.”