Concerns Arise Of Department Of Children Services Practices
NASHVILLE, Tenn.- A Department of Children's Services employee has claimed that the agency has been ignoring a serious situation after multiple children died in their custody.
In the first six months of 2012, four children died while in DCS custody. Ten other children also passed away while DCS was investigating their cases.
Aaron Campbell spent years working for DCS as their legislative director, but lost his job when new bosses came on board. While Campbell doesn't necessarily believe that kids in DCS custody are in danger, he said that he concerns that top brass at the agency are ignoring disturbing trends that could lead to trouble.
"I think it's certainly alarming when an agency whose mission to protect children cannot provide basic information about the people they are supposed to protect," said Campbell.
In two face to face meetings Aaron Campbell said he briefed DCS commissioner Kate O'Day about the fact the agency was supposed to report the deaths of kids in DCS care to state lawmakers
"That is basic data that agency should be accountable for, and should be able to produce at any time," Campbell explained.
Campbell said the agency ignored the law since 2011 which required them to tell lawmakers of each child death or near death in their district. The situation led Campbell to be concerned the agency isn't paying close enough attention to the number of children dying in DCS custody.
The situation has since caught the attention of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.
"We do have some issues around getting the information we need to evaluate ourselves," said Haslam.
Haslam said he has met with Commissioner O'Day and is reviewing the details surrounding the cases. He said that O'Day still has is full faith and confidence.
"I have seen how much she cares about kids, and I quite frankly see the good work ," he said.
Campbell said he disagrees and believes changes need to be made at the top.
"I think the Governor needs to do a much closer review of the actual practice that's going on at DCS. In a recent article -Commissioner O'Day was quoted as saying that basically she didn't know a law existed that required notification and then said she could theoretically have done a review of the law - so I find it disturbing that two years into her administration that no extensive review of the law has been done, especially after the Governor's administration has touted their top to bottom reviews," said Campbell.
Governor Haslam plans to release his review of DCS in October. State lawmakers are also considering holding a special hearing to discuss appointing an outside auditor to look into their concerns surrounding DCS.
DCS released this statement regarding the issue:
"The department has already acknowledged it was not
in compliance with the law requiring us to notify lawmakers of child deaths in
their districts. Upon learning of this omission, we immediately took action to
comply with the law and have already begun sending the notifications. While
this law was mentioned in Mr. Campbell's 2010 legislative report included in
materials provided to Commissioner O'Day upon her appointment, neither the
commissioner nor any other current DCS employee could have known that the
department would fall out of compliance with the law upon Mr. Campbell's
departure. That is because he apparently made the notifications informally over
the phone, leaving us with no documentation or formal procedure that would
survive a transition. We have since established a formal, documented procedure
that will ensure future compliance."