DCS Releases Court-Ordered Review Of Child Deaths

May 8, 2014

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The Tennessee Department of Children's Services has completed its first year of reviewing child deaths in the state, as required by a federal judge.

The Tennessean newspaper reports the court order requires DCS to learn as much as possible about every death or near-death in families who had contact with DCS caseworkers.

The report reviews 109 deaths and near-deaths; the agency responded to 245 deaths last year and pledges to review all of them.

The report also outlines the difficulties faced by caseworkers, which include overly-large caseloads and not enough training to deal with the drug use and mental health concerns they encounter while doing their jobs; the process used to evaluate the safety of homes needs to be updated; and caseworkers don't always share information with one another while investigating.

Tom Cheetham, DCS deputy commissioner of child health, says the caseworker reviews don't seek to place blame, but to understand why and how caseworker decisions were made.

The DCS fell behind on reviews in 2011 and 2012. So far this year, the agency is investigating 69 child deaths.