- Associated Press - Friday, March 7, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The state of Tennessee has agreed to pay $250,000 to the parents of a teenager who died while in the custody of the Department of Children’s Services. Kendall Oates was 18 years old when he suffered a seizure and died at the Woodland Hills Developmental Center in Nashville in May of 2012. The money settles a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the teen’s father.

The Tennessean (https://tnne.ws/1dxiq2E) is reporting that there are questions about why the Brentwood teenager who had a seizure disorder was ever sent to a facility that houses some of the most violent youth offenders in the state. Oates was admitted into state custody after smashing a cellphone and lunging at his father. While in custody, the teen went to a series of group homes, but often lashed out at his caretakers. He was eventually transferred to Woodland Hills, where violent felons are often housed.

In the year before her son died, Diane Oates tried to get her son out of state custody.

The mother wept when she spoke in an interview about the ordeal.

“No amount of money replaces a child. I want him back. I want my son,” she said

The newspaper’s investigation found that a judge twice ordered that Oates be moved to a facility that could better take care of his medical needs. Under state law, DCS can overrule a judge on deciding where to place a child in its custody.

The newspaper also found that Oates may have been sick or dead in his room for hours because a security guard failed to check on the boy every 15 minutes as required. An autopsy revealed that there was no anti-seizure medicine in the teen’s system despite DCS being required to administer the medicine daily.

The teen is one of at least 105 children who died in 2012 that had some type of prior contact with the child-welfare agency - either the child was in state custody or had been reported to the agency as a victim of abuse or neglect.

A spokesman for DCS says the agency has made numerous reforms since Jim Henry was named as new commission in 2013.


Information from: The Tennessean, https://www.tennessean.com

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