Democratic Lawmaker Defends Tenn. Department of Children's Services

Oct 10, 2012

A Democratic lawmaker who played a role in the formation of the embattled Tennessee Department of Children's Services says the agency's commissioner shouldn't be blamed for deeply rooted problems she inherited. The agency has released information showing that 31 children it had investigated died during the first half of 2012. Critics want to replace DCS Commissioner Kate O’Day, who Governor Bill Haslam appointed just last year. However, Representative John Deberry of Memphis, who has been a DCS critic over the years, says the problem isn’t O’Day. It’s many of the workers she oversees.

He suggests “cleaning house” as the solution and thinks O’Day should have time to create a plan of action. Deberry wrote a letter to Haslam and House Speaker Beth Harwell saying the DCS has had problems his entire 18 years in the Legislature. Haslam spokesman Dave Smith says the governor has visited the DCS and believes it is “committed to its mission.” Smith also says there is always room for improvement. The DCS has previously had an investigation of child deaths and a lawsuit for inadequate care in the early 2000s.