TRI-CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) — Local leaders are reacting after a scathing report on the state of Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services. A state audit says DCS needs to fix issues that have plagued the department for years.
The audit cites 5 main failings within the system. General Sessions Juvenile Court Judge Kenneth Bailey said that currently there is a 6-year-old in Greene County who has been staying at Isaiah 117 House for 2 months awaiting placement. He and State Senator Jon Lundberg said the DCS issues are complicated and needed to be addressed months ago.
“For kids that have been victimized and traumatized,” said Bailey. “I think by them staying in these DCS offices and Isaiah Houses for weeks on end, it’s just further complicating that trauma and adding to it.”
Bailey said DCS faces a combination of factors impacting the system and the children involved.
“In the last 15 years, our state has shut down or defunded facilities or locked down facilities, we used to have three juvenile male lockdown facilities in our state, those have been closed,” said Bailey. “We have kids now sitting in the Isaiah Houses, in the DCS offices.”
Bailey also said the state needs to look at how much it is paying facilities like Isaiah 117 House.
“We have some programs and facilities in our state that are taking kids from Virginia and North Carolina, Kentucky, because those states pay more per day for the kids,” said Bailey.
He said the caseload DCS workers are taking on also needs to be addressed.
“DCS workers in this region, are having to sign up for eight extra shifts a month, for six-hour shifts,” said Bailey. “That is exhausting for these workers.”
Senator Jon Lundberg said the workload and the culture within DCS need to be addressed.
“If you look at DCS as mission and vision, they’re violating both of those,” said Lundberg. “When we’re putting children’s lives in danger or in jeopardy, we’ve got a serious fundamental issue.”
Lundberg said he believes the new DCS commissioner, Margie Quin, will address issues within DCS. He said talking to DCS and organizations that work along DCS will help paint a clear picture of what needs to be done moving forward.
“What I need is information,” said Lundberg. “I need the ground truth of what’s going on, so that I can put my version on this is it a dollars thing. Is it structure? Is it [because] the caseload is just too high? And it’s different in our part of the state than in other parts of the state. “
Lundberg said now that the issues were spelled out, state leaders will address the issues and address them very publicly.