TN lawmaker wants to make DCS report all cases of abuse to law enforcement

Sunshine Williams
Posted at 5:00 PM, Jan 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-16 20:57:41-05

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF)  — After a reported child abuse case nearly slipped through the cracks, the Department of Children's Services has reopened the case, and a law could soon change.

After a NewsChannel5 story aired, showing nurse Melissa Winer pushing over a girl she was supposed to be caring for, Winer was arrested for aggravated child abuse and neglect by the Clarksville Police Department. Jo'Vanna Williams originally took her daughter's case to the Department of Children's Services in August. They closed the case citing a policy violation. Williams felt strongly it was abuse.

"Unfortunately, when the story got out, I’m not the only one like this," Williams said.

DCS said they did not release their findings to police initially as they're not required by law to report non-severe abuse cases. Former lawmaker Sherry Jones said what happened in the video could have serious consequences for 12-year-old Sunshine Williams as she has cerebral palsy and a slew of other health issues.

"I don’t know what would constitute non-severe, I thought it was severe considering the child’s condition,” Jones said. "I’m surprised that DCS would not want to turn it over to the police department because the nurse, the professional, that was committing these crimes should not be allowed to continue practicing and maybe commit those same crimes on other children."

She believes there's a disconnect between DCS and law enforcement, and has been critical of DCS in the past.

"I know that when the police, we talked about it before, felt there was serious lack of communication," Jones said.

On Thursday DCS emailed NewsChannel 5 saying they had reopened the case based on new information.

State representative Jason Potts wants to change the law so that DCS is required to report all abuse to law enforcement. He said it's imperative that child abuse cases don't slip through the cracks.

"I think it sounds like the legislation needs to be changed," Potts said. "We definitely want to make it right."

The Clarksville Police Department is also reviewing their procedures for handling referrals which have been screened by DCS.