- Associated Press - Monday, November 28, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services is getting closer to operating independently of federal oversight for the first time in 15 years.

November court filings show the agency has maintained compliance with all the goals set out after a settlement and now maintains a level of performance “that is consistent with a reasonably well-performing child welfare system,” The Tennessean reported (https://tnne.ws/2go7B8X ).

Records also show DCS has taken steps to create an “external accountability center” of neutral and outside experts that will take over the court’s job of monitoring the department for another 18 months and providing public updates on its operations.

The case began in 2000 when the New York-based Children’s Rights agency filed suit over the state’s treatment of children in foster care. A settlement was reached that set out a series of new standards for the department to reach, including reasonable caseloads, sufficient training for case workers, and a quick response to reports of abuse or neglect.

In April, the department met those goals and U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell accepted a joint report by DCS and Children’s Rights.

The case will close when the state maintains its efforts for a full year. Upon closure, the accountability center will monitor DCS and make reviews public for an additional 18 months.

DCS Commissioner Bonnie Hommrich said the process had been “a long journey for the Department of Children’s Services.

“We couldn’t have gotten where we are today if not for our talented staff and our dedicated partners. We will keep working hard to maintain our compliance with the settlement agreement. Beyond that, we will continue making even more system improvements in order to keep children safe, healthy and back on track,” she was quoted as saying.


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

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