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Tennessee Lawmakers Review Critical Audit Of DCS

Tennessee Lawmakers Review Critical Audit Of DCS

CREATED Jan 28, 2014

By Mark Bellinger

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -  A new audit is not very flattering of the state's Department of Children's Services.  

A 105-page report put together by auditors with the Tennessee Comptroller's Officer discovered many problems within the department.  

On Monday, members of a joint Senate-House Committee listened to a summary of the report.

The audit was critical of many things including violating state law by failing to report the deaths of children in its custody to state lawmakers.  

The agency was not adequately tracking juvenile delinquents put on probation, according to the audit.

The audit also pointed out problems with DCS's system for doing background checks of foster parents. It also found some abuse and neglect referrals from the Child Abuse Hotline couldn't be assessed because the tracking records weren't very good.

DCS. Commissioner Jim Henry believes the Abuse Hotline is one area that is much better than it was when he arrived 8 months ago.

"Used to it took a minute and a half to answer a phone call and then there was a 20 second stop where there was nobody, so I mean today if you call that child abuse line you'll get a person in 20 seconds," said Henry.  

DCS has come under fire for a series of failures in recent years. One state lawmaker said case workers are still complaining they can't get work done in the field.  

"They tell me they're pretty much in the same position they were in last time we fussed at them.  That they are unable to put the data in a timely fashion, access data," Memphis Democratic Representative G.A. Hardaway said.

The state tracks cases with an IT system called T-FACTS.  

"You know we've solved a lot of the problems, directed a lot of money to it. We've worked with Oak Ridge that has the largest computer in the world to try to solve the problems.  The challenge is mining the data that we have," said Henry.

Nashville Democratic Representative Sherry Jones said change may be happening, but much too slowly.  

"DCS still has problems. I mean it's evident by the audit and they still have problems and they still have a long way to go," said Representative Jones.  

Right now the state is testing iPads and tablets in the field with some case workers. They hope to address the issue of collecting and storing data.  

The state plans on handing them to 2,600 case workers at a cost of $1.5-million.

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