DCS Commissioner O'Day resigns

Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 11:58am
020513 Kate O'Day main.jpg
Kathryn "Kate" O'Day

Updated: 3:05 p.m.

The embattled commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services is stepping down, Gov. Bill Haslam announced Tuesday.

Kathryn O’Day’s resignation comes on the heels of a legal battle with The Tennessean and a coalition of media companies over access to records on deaths of children the department had contact with.

“She was concerned that she had become more of a focus than the children the department serves,” Haslam said Tuesday.

The governor has replaced her temporarily with Jim Henry, commissioner of the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. He will oversee both departments until the governor appoints a permanent replacement.

DCS announced Monday it would hand over records on the child deaths for a charge of more than $55,000 per child.

The legal battle came from months of the agency denying media access to records of children who have died or nearly died since 2009 after having interaction with DCS. A Davidson County chancellor last month ordered the state to provide redacted records on some 200 children.

Lawmakers have called for the O’Day’s resignation for months. The most vocal is Rep. Sherry Jones Nashville.

“While I am happy to see Gov. Haslam finally coming around to addressing our concerns about DCS, this announcement is long past due,” she said in a statement. “While I hope to have a good working relationship with Interim Commissioner Jim Henry, there are still many questions that need to be answered about the administration of DCS over the past two years.”

O’Day was scheduled to testify before the Senate Health and Welfare Committee Wednesday, but according to the governor's office, she will not appear. Instead, Commissioner Henry will say a few words to lawmakers and the agency’s counsel, Doug Dimond, will testify.

O’Day was one of the first of Haslam’s appointees after his 2010 election. She had worked in Knoxville as the president and chief executive officer of Child & Family Tennessee.

Her career began as a youth counselor with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office in Florida and later became vice president of program development and evaluation for Children’s Home Society of Florida and director of program services for Covenant House of Florida, according to her state bio.

6 Comments on this post:

By: Jughead on 2/5/13 at 3:38

This will change nothing.

By: record4children... on 2/5/13 at 10:36

Our children deserve better and I won't rest until there is change: record4children@gmail.com:
I am still waiting for DCS to check on my 2 year old and 5 year old that were placed in "Protective Custody" by DCS in 2011. It is now Feb 2013 and these small children have never ONCE been checked on, yet they deemed "dependent and neglected" and placed with someone they "indicated as a child abuser". My children will be turning 4 and 7 in just a few weeks, good thing that we are good parents and our children are SAFE because if DCS had placed them in foster care, God only knows what their fate would be. I mean, really, how could you take such aggressive measures to "protect" such small children and then NEVER again check on them? How is that even possible? It is not surprising at all to me that there are so many fatalities, DCS is neither acting in good faith or with integrity, but as an agency following the rules of the Wild Wild West and doing as they please with no regard for the well being of any child or family. Tragic because it is avoidable! Want to know more about our story? You should, we are good parents, law abiding & tax paying citizens that have forever been changed by this very wreckless behavior you see resulting in fatalities. Who knows who is next! Never thought it would be us either. No, this won't stop until the truth is revealed and clear laws and policies are in place to protect our children, all of them. I pray this is finally the beginning of change because God knows these children deserve better. Shame on all who know the about the gross negligence and fail to report it, who fail to stand up for the children, the good parents.I for one will stand, I will endure, I will demand justice for the sake of my children & all other children! record4children@gmail.com

By: BigPapa on 2/6/13 at 12:24

If they went to the trouble to remove the children, you did something really really bad. You can always petition the Jv court and ask for a hearing.

By: CoyoteCrawford on 2/6/13 at 8:43

This is just getting crazier by the day. $55,000 per child to obtain records? Where is Haslam on this? I see no real direction on his part. The politics of the right is going to bring him down. I'm sorry to say.

By: CoyoteCrawford on 2/6/13 at 8:48

You only mentioned that children have died without mentioning the actual number. How do the readers get a sense of the magnitude of this problem when your reporting so lacking.

By: pepawjoe on 2/11/13 at 8:55

It appears that the real issues, those children involved, should be Priority one, give or take NOTHING ELSE. PERIOD!
If or when a child deceases or near too, that child is "IN STATE CUSTODY", and the State is LIABLE in most instances.
The State who has assigned that child, "BETTER KNOW FROM DAY ONE" all concerns. Sickness, Ills, Has', Have Nots, ETC. A Priority by the State and every Medical Care available for that child.
Any State Appointed Individual that THINKS or SAYS "IT'S NOT THEIR JOB TO KNOW", "DON'T NEED TO BE THERE, PERIOD".
Child Assignment, and Assements "SHOULD NOT HAVE OR BE A REVOLVING DOOR SITUATION FOR ANY CHILD IN STATE CUSTODY. When a partner FAILS, that child suffers that fate the most.
Govenor Haslam "NEEDS TO FIX THE PROBLEMS """"" FIRST"""". A college degree, added schooling, "DOES NOT REPLACE "COMMON SENSE" AND PLAIN OLD PERFORMANCES". If it's an Adminstration Problem, "FIX IT!!!" SOME BODY is not what We need. We've had that before hand, "AND IT DOESN'T WORK". ""FIX IT FIRST"