Embattled DCS seeks $8.6M budget increase

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 3:42pm

The embattled Department of Children Services is asking for an $8.6 million budget increase next year, largely to hire more caseworkers and increase payments to parents who adopt and foster children.

The funding request comes as the department is in the spotlight after revealing that 31 children it had investigated died in the first six months of this year.

“I think these are issues that are very much in front of everyone,” said Kathryn O’Day, DCS commissioner. “We’ve been very thoughtful, careful to be sure that these are targeted investments that we feel have a very, very high probability of actually saving us money down the road or proving to be wise investments.”

The bulk of the proposed budget would come in the form of increases in payments to parents who adopt or foster children to the tune of $5.8 million.

The department hopes to hire 29 additional caseworkers in child protective services, 20 family service caseworkers to focus on children already in custody and 13 new attorneys. Between the additional staffing and raises, the agency is asking for $2.7 million to attract and keep caseworkers in child protective services jobs.

Gov. Bill Haslam, who asked each department to also prepare plans for a 5 percent budget reduction, said he understands the need to give the department more money next year but said it would be difficult in a tight state budget.

The governor later told reporters that he is leaning toward giving the department at least some of what it's asking for, such as a hiring more case workers and giving them a pay bump.

"It's very difficult emotional work and we're not paying very much. Well, no wonder we have turnover," said Haslam after the day's budget hearing. "That piece of it makes some sense. Beyond that, we'll have to evaluate."

Agency heads said they are also working out issues with the Tennessee Family and Child Tracking System for data management, that is supposed to distribute information to a data “warehouse” regarding factors like cases, children and caseworkers. Using the system has had some state workers “in tears,” O’Day said.

“Nobody wants the data out of TFACTs more than we do,” said O’Day. The reporting function has been difficult to access, a problem the agency expects to be fixed by year’s end.

“To manage an organization this size and this complexity and all the things that are going on, we need good data,” she said.

The troubles plaguing the department lie at the commissioner’s feet, said Nashville state Rep. Sherry Jones who has been critical of the agency.

“If the commissioner can’t get a handle on things any better than what she’s got now, then she probably needs to be thinking about moving on somewhere else and let somebody else step in who knows what’s going on.”

7 Comments on this post:

By: Rocket99 on 11/9/12 at 8:13

The first thing DCS needs is new management. Really, the manageent they had before the current commissioner and her cronies. I believe the department has been set back to at least 3-4 years before she took the position.

Why would someone choose a person who's running a failing company/non-profit and make them the head of a large department of state government? Doesn't make good "business" sense and since this governor is all about 'busines".....

Things have gotten progressively worse since O'Day has become the commissioner.

I think Phil Williamson needs to have conversations with some of the people she has fired to get the real story on her and why things are like they are.

By: Kosh III on 11/9/12 at 8:15

"It's very difficult emotional work and we're not paying very much. Well, no wonder we have turnover," said Haslam

This applies to several departments but don't hold your breath....

By: Been there on 11/10/12 at 3:32

Having dealt with them, petitioning the courts I can assure you there is so much wrong that any change would be good. There is no appeal for a parent losing a child. dcs does nothing in writing and can never be reached by phone. Haslam knows, we've all written, he just ignores us. It is a "Gestapo" mindset and no one wants to face it. I filed a complaint with the atty gen because we were fully vetted and waiting to take our foster daughter, per her mom's wishes and free of any charges to the state; dcs refused us.
They refused to follow their own rules. The best practices and the TCCY's procedures were all ignored. The fellow foster family that adopted our foster daughter has a 3rd in their custody now. Three healthy white little girls in a little under three years. I've got the paperwork to prove it too. Dsc lied to the judge, the mom, and us. You won't find anyone telling on them because there are consequences. No one enjoys a fight, but Tennessee kids deserve better.

By: Kosh III on 11/10/12 at 7:21

been there

Have you tried http://www.tnjustice.org/
your case sounds like the kind of thing they handle.

By: cannoneer2 on 11/10/12 at 8:04

I propose that every time the Governor and Commissioners start running around chirping about 5% cuts in every department that they be required to jettison an Assistant Commissioner or similar bureaucrat with each 5% increment.

By: NArno4 on 11/12/12 at 10:18

How about making the computer software company out of Massachusetts pay. They want $4 million dollars to "fix" the software that didn't work properly from the get go. If TN pays those crooks $4 million to 'fix' the problem, DCS does not deserve the added money!!!!

By: record4children... on 2/5/13 at 10:40

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 is what 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. 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. record4children@gmail.com