DCS Will Need Months to Gather Data Required Under Settlement

Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services is trying to take stock of how much work is left to meet the terms of a decade-old settlement agreement. A report out earlier this week says right now the state is having a hard time even tracking its progress.

The case known as Brian A. was meant to get more kids in state custody out of big group homes and into foster families. A few years ago Tennessee looked to be in the “home stretch” of the needed reforms.

But the latest report says a switch to a new computer database has made some key improvements hard to track – like exactly when and how often kids and parents meet with advocates and social workers. Governor Bill Haslam says that kind of buggy data system is “an issue throughout state government.”

“Our information systems in the departments aren’t providing us the information we need, and it’s a critical issue. When you look at something like the Brian A. lawsuit that’s costing the state a lot of money, not being able to produce the data that our overseers need is a problem for us.”

DCS says it’s dedicated a deputy commissioner to focus on information systems, and is now partnering with other states, like Ohio, dealing with similar problems. Even so, it will be the end of the year before they have all the needed data together, and can get a sense of how much further the reforms have to go.

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