“Brian A” Child Welfare Reforms Slowed by Computer Glitches

A new report shows efforts to improve the way Tennessee takes care of children in state custody have slowed down.

Under a settlement agreement between the Department of Children’s Services and an advocacy group called Children’s Rights, the state is supposed to reduce its reliance on institutional facilities like group homes. Instead, the goal is to put more children into stable family settings, and to cut down on the amount of time it takes to get them there.

Ira Lustbader led the case against the state a decade ago. In recent years he thought Tennessee was close to finishing the needed reforms. But Lustbader says last year showed the effect of setbacks for a new administration and bugs in the software that’s used to manage all aspects of children’s care. He says glitches in the new system made it hard to track basic information about cases or statewide trends.

“And that includes critical areas such as the response times to reports of child abuse… and even compliance with required visits between state case workers and foster children. They don’t have accurate, reliable data on these things.”

Lustbader says sometimes the system had to be shut down altogether.

While Governor Haslam’s team may have liked to finish the reform process by next year, Lustbader now doubts that’s possible.

WPLN’s Daniel Potter also contributed to this story.

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