Budget Hearing Looms for Children’s Services Department

Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services will be among those before Governor Bill Haslam during state budget hearings this week. DCS has been taking flak for high worker turnover, and struggling to track kids in custody as required by a court settlement.

DCS Commissioner Kathryn O'Day / State of Tennessee

DCS Commissioner Kathryn O’Day / State of Tennessee

DCS has more than 4 thousand workers, and in some areas turnover is rapid, with jobs starting at less than $30 thousand a year. Governor Haslam has hinted that doesn’t seem like enough. Commissioner Kathryn O’Day was cautious when asked about it in light of the looming budget, saying some choose DCS as their life’s work, and that’s a good thing.

“We don’t want to underpay people. We need to pay people enough to maintain our staffing needs, and to be able to retain people, but I really am okay with us not being a place that people work for the money. I think you really need that.”

DCS has struggled to meet requirements under the decade-old settlement known as Brian A. One key goal is placing kids in family-like settings, and O’Day brags the state is now number-one by some measures for getting kids adopted or permanently placed.

The department is set for budget hearings with the governor Thursday morning.

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