Officials meet to discuss deaths of 31 children in DCS care

Officials meet to discuss deaths of 31 children in DCS care (Image 1)

Lawmakers, child advocates and law enforcement officials convened Thursday behind closed doors at the War Memorial building in downtown Nashville.

Kim Stringfield-Davis, director of the Child Advocacy Center of the 23rd Judicial District, told Nashville's News 2 the discussion was prompted by a letter she wrote to State Sen. Jim Sommerville expressing her concerns on DCS cases.

“We were interested in having the department look into how they are classifying particular cases,” said Stringfield-Davis shortly after the meeting.

Thursday's meeting comes after Nashville's News 2 obtained a startling report, showing 31 children died under DCS supervision in the first half of 2012.

DCS Commissioner Kathryn O'Day acknowledges there are some problems.

“Thirty-one tragedies, it's a very great concern to me,” said O'Day. “We are looking into it. We have looked into it but, we are looking further into it and we're going to keep working on this.”

Law-enforcement officials like Cumberland County Sheriff Butch Burgess also had the opportunity to weigh in. Burgess has personal experience fostering children. He told Nashville's News 2 that he and his wife have fostered over 50 children, even adopting one.

He also told Nashville's News 2 he has encountered DCS children first hand on the job.

“I've gone into houses where you're walking on top of garbage and there's little kids living in there, and those kids know my name, so they're expecting me to help them,” said Burgess.

Burgess told Nashville's News 2 he believes more control at the local level could help the DCS system become more effective.

“The legislature, the governor's office, DCS all has good intentions but it can't be fixed that way, it's got to be fixed from the bottom up in each local county,” said Burgess.

DCS Commissioner O'Day told Nashville's News 2 her agency plans to continue working with the various stakeholders to come up with solutions to the agency's problems.

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