Gov. calls DCS miscount of child deaths 'not acceptable'
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV-AP) -
The Tennessee Department of Children's Services continues to be challenged by different groups demanding more information about the deaths of children in its care.
First, a group of Tennessee news media and now child advocacy group Children First has reached a federal court ordered settlement with DCS.
Lawyers for the Tennessee Department of Children's Services told a federal judge Friday that they are not 100-percent certain they know how many children died while in the agency's custody over the past few years.
This fall, DCS said 151 children who had previous contact with the agency died between January 2009 and mid-2012.
DCS has notified Gov. Bill Haslam that the department failed to account for nine deaths in 2011 and 2012, involving children who had contact with the department.
According to the governor's office, some cases were documented incorrectly, and others weren't documented at all.
Haslam released a statement Thursday, calling this "not acceptable" and said he was appointing a senior adviser in his office to conduct an analysis of DCS operations.
"I believe anytime a child dies, and this state has been involved in their lives, we need to be accountable for what we did right and certainly for what we did wrong," said State Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville. "The number of fatalities now has changed again. That has changed four or five times, and that's ridiculous."
The latest fatality count came just one day after a judge ruled that DCS must release more details about the deaths of children in state custody.
Chancellor Carol McCoy ruled DCS must release the cause and circumstances regarding the fatality or near fatality, the age and gender of the child, previous reports of abuse or neglect, investigation results - if any - and what services where provided prior to death.
Now, the governor has appointed Knoxville banker Larry Martin to investigate DCS.
Rep. Jones said what the governor should have done is not allowed the dissolution of the DCS Oversight Committee.
"They have to have oversight. You don't want departments working in secrecy where nobody knows what's going on," Jones said.
At the same time, Children First, the caretaker of the big federal settlement with DCS,
now wants all child death records turned over to Children First.
The group wants to not only see what's going on, but they also want to know why there are so many discrepancies that won't go away.
Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.