After years of questions that intensified in the past year with reports of dying kids in state care and a new computer system failing to keep track of foster children, the acting commissioner of the Department of Children Services (DCS) announced a reorganization of the agency Monday.
Interim DSC Commissioner Jim Henry promised “the first thing we are going to do is concentrate on child safety” and see change “within 90 days” in a briefing Monday afternoon with reporters.
“If you don't quite have some urgency about getting things done, they don't quite get done,” Henry said before detailing his reorganization.
Using an old fashioned grease board, Henry showed a half circle where just about everything and everybody was directly connected to his office.
“We are going to center more things around the commissioners office,” he said during his presentation. “You'll see it has a lot of direct reports to me, probably for the first time.”
As top lieutenants of the DCS looked on, the reorganization creates two new deputy commissioners solely responsible for safety and health of the state's 10,000 foster parents, and more training for investigators with the help of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
“We are looking at specialty training and ongoing training, and the training in the area of drugs,” said Dr. Scott Modell who will be the new deputy commissioner of child health.
Commissioner Henry promised the review when he took over the agency in early February after the abrupt resignation of Katie O'Day.
O'Day stepped down just days before she was to answer questions before a state legislative committee.
Henry is pulling double duty since he is also head the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
Earlier this month, he had some good news about an often criticized $27 million computer system.
Federal monitors filed a report that indicated the State of Tennessee is fixing the computer system called TFACTS which is designed to keep track of the 10,000 kids who are in foster under car under the state guidelines.
The system had more than 1,700 defects identified over the years.
A DCS spokesperson said only about 300 were left to fix.
DCS is also getting a nearly 16 million dollar increase under the state budget proposed for next fiscal year from Governor Bill Haslam.
Rep. Sherry Jones of Nashville, who had been a harsh critic of the previous commissioner, told reporters, “this commissioner is listening. I think he's trying to do some good things.”
- Feb. 6, 2013: Former DCS workers say agency problems risk lives
- Feb. 6, 2013: Interim commissioner vows to attack problems at troubled DCS
- Feb. 5, 2013: DCS commissioner resigns amid scrutiny of deaths
- Feb. 3, 2013: DCS commissioner to meet with legislative panel
- Jan. 24, 2013: Tenn. shows more cases of child deaths in DCS care
- Jan. 23, 2013: DCS ordered to release child death records
- Nov. 7, 2012: DCS Commissioner promises improvements inside department
- Oct. 4, 2012: Officials meet to discuss deaths of 31 children in DCS care
- Oct. 3, 2012: Governor: No indication agency mishandled cases
- Sept. 22, 2012:Haslam reviewing data on child deaths
- Sept. 21, 2012: DCS: 31 children it investigated died this year
- Sept. 12, 2012: Lawmaker demands answers from DCS commissioner