Interim DCS Commissioner Jim Henry and longtime Haslem aide, Larry Martin, met with newspaper reporters and stated that the $27 million dollar computer system was improving. Haslem sent Martin to help sort out problems at the agency on January 24th, and his goal is to improve the credibility of the agency and to improve working relationships with other agencies and providers.
DCS currently has about 8,000 children in its custody and has a mission to find permanent homes and help these children live happy and productive lives.
I worked at DCS for seven years and know a lot of ways it could work better.
DCS Commissioner Kate O'Day, who was appointed by Governor Haslem in January 2011, resigned yesterday, February 5, 2012, amidst allegations that the Department has mishandled cases of children who have died while abuse and neglect investigations were opened. There have also been allegations that the record-keeping system of DCS needs to be revamped, as the initial number of child fatalities was incorrectly reported.
Governor Haslem announced on January 24th that DCS had nine child deaths unaccounted for between 2011 and 2012, which raised the number of custodial deaths to 25 in the past two years. After this revelation, Haslam appointed a senior advisor to look into DCS operations. A federal judge has also ordered DCS to hand over its death records to a watchdog organization in January and ordered DCS to overhaul its child fatality review process within 90 days. Turning over these records will cost DCS around $55,000.
The Governor has appointed Jim Henry, the Commissioner of DIDD, as interim Commissioner of DCS until a new Commissioner can be located.
I was trying a custody case at the Hamilton County Juvenile Court yesterday afternoon when Judge Suzanne Bailey made the announcement to her staff at 2:50PM in her courtroom that she was retiring from the bench effective April 30, 2013. Judge Bailey has served as Juvenile Judge since 1990 and this represents a big transitional period for Hamilton County. With Judge Betty Adams Green retiring as the Davidson County Juvenile Court Judge in September of last year, the State of Tennessee has seen a lot of big changes in the past 6 months or so in the area of Juvenile Law.
The Hamilton County Commission will be appointing an interim Judge in the next few weeks, who will remain on the bench until the election in 2014. It is likely that there will be many people coming out of the woodwork to campaign for the Judgeship, as it is an important job that comes with a good salary and control over a fairly large budget.
It will be interesting to see who ends up getting appointed as the interim Judge, but it sounds like the Juvenile Court is about to be facing a lot of changes in the 15 months ahead. Hopefully it will be to the benefit of the children and families of Hamilton County and hopefully it will be someone with a proven knowledge and interest in Juvenile Law. Judge Suzanne Bailey will be missed.