State system fix could cost nearly $4 million

State system fix could cost nearly $4 million (Image 1)

The Department of Children Services estimates repairs to its Tennessee Family and Child Tracking System (TFACTS) could cost $3.96 million and take several months.

The system was purchased as an automated child welfare information system in 2010 at a cost of $27 million.

Tennessee paid $13.9 million while the federal government paid $13.1 million.

TFACTS was supposed to help DCS staff manage their workloads and provide information to help DCS make decisions about children in the system. It was also supposed to manage payments to DCS contractors and foster families.

But the program has been plagued by problems since it went live in August 2010. TFACTS was based on a similar program created for the state of Ohio.

“It has five million lines of code and has more than 800 screens attached to it,” Lee Gregory, deputy commissioner of finance and information technology, said. “We have been able to look into that system and look at all the code and try to figure out where all the issues are.”

Deputy Commissioner Gregory's primary focus is on correcting a long list of problems with TFACTS.

In the spring, Tennessee Comptroller's office identified 19 issues with TFACTS.

They included a lack of timely payments to foster families, duplicate payments in other cases and failing to track problems with TFACTS among other issues.

The current DCS administration inherited TFACTS and its problems from the previous administration.  The current DCS Commissioner Kate O'Day did not take over the department until January 2011 a full year after TFACTS went live.

“It has been a daunting task,” Gregory said. “We have actually gone out and have a vendor who came into to be able to help us look at the code.”

The vendor is also training DCS employees so after the vendors leave DCS employees on staff will be able to handle issues that arise from TFACTS.

Most of the 19 issues the comptroller identified have been completed according to DCS. The rest are expected to be finished by the end of 2012.

Gregory told Nashville's News 2 the problems with TFACTS has not caused children in the system to be lost in the system, though Tennessee Representative Sherry Jones criticized the department for not being able to readily provide information about children who died while under DCS supervision.

“We have got checks and balances in TFACTS and in our reporting system as well,” Gregory said.

DCS plans to gather information about the issues it has had with TFACTS and turn it over to the Tennessee Attorney General's office.

The office will decide if the state will take legal action against the company that designed TFACTS to recoup some of the money it is costing to fix the system.

The state also wants to make other upgrades to TFACTS.

“It is very large and it is not as user friendly as we want it to be its very cumbersome,” Gregory said. “We are going to be focusing, after we get the other deficiencies re mediated, on how to make TFACTS more streamlined.”

Tennessee is one of 35 stats that have an automated child welfare information system like TFACTS, though not every state used the same company to design the system in place.

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