Governor Bill Haslam continues to defend the Department of Children’s Services for its refusal to release certain case files last year. The agency is now under a court order to hand over the information.
The documents in question concern children who died even after investigations found problems like physical abuse and medical neglect. A coalition of media groups sued the state for access to the files.
Court records show the agency only volunteered a brief, two-page spreadsheet. Haslam says multiple legal offices advised DCS administrators that handing over any more than that would violate privacy laws.
“It wasn’t just their lawyer, it was also the Attorney General, who we don’t hire, who represents the state, who said, ‘no, we don’t think you can give that, either.’”
Judge Carol McCoy disagreed. In four cases files alone, the judge identified 160 pages which must be shared, once identifying information is redacted.
Haslam does admit DCS needs to do a better job of protecting children, although he stops short of explicitly criticizing DCS Commissioner Kathryn O’Day. His proposed budget cuts 30 administrative positions in the department and he says the job requirements for case workers will be made more stringent.