Lawmaker demands answers from DCS commissioner

Lawmaker demands answers from DCS commissioner (Image 1)

A Tennessee lawmaker is demanding the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Children Services explain why DCS has not provided her with the number of children who have died while under DCS' supervision in 2012.

“I am extremely concerned about the department and how it operates,” said Democratic Rep. Sherry Jones of Nashville. “Especially, the fact you can not get information from them.”

Rep. Jones asked the department to tell her how many children have died while under DCS supervision in 2012. She initially made the request in writing in July.

Since then, Rep. Jones said she has not been provided the information and has requested it on multiple occasions.

“There is no reason for the department not to be able to give me that information within a week,” she said. “If the department and if the commissioner believes that is acceptable than she is mistaken.”

Two years ago, DCS implemented the Tennessee Family and Child Tracking System, or TFACTS.  The $27 million system was designed to track children in DCS' care and help workers manage their caseloads.

But, the system has been plagued by problems since the beginning.

In June 2011, the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury began an audit of TFACTS that was sparked by problems with foster care providers receiving payments and other issues.

In March 2012, the comptroller's office released its findings citing a number of problems.

DCS Commissioner Kathryn O'Day was not in charge of the department when TFACTS was implemented.

Commissioner O'Day was not available for comment Wednesday but a DCS spokeswoman said the commissioner has hired a deputy commissioner to oversee the correction of problems outlined in the comptroller's audit.

The spokeswoman said the majority of TFACT's problems would be resolved by the end of 2012.

Rep. Jones plans to call for an emergency meeting of the Tennessee House's Children and Family Affairs committee to address the issues within DCS.

“We are talking about children's lives here,” she said. “We are talking about children who have been abused and severely neglected.”

She continued, “Those are not things that are lost in a system. They can not be lost in the system these are children's lives.”

DCS officials told Nashville's News 2 the report Rep. Jones requested should be complete in two weeks.

Once the report is complete, DCS said it would release its findings to News 2 as well as Rep. Jones.

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