Lawmaker questions DCS handling of Smyrna mother case - WSMV Channel 4

Lawmaker questions DCS handling of Smyrna mother case

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

A Tennessee lawmaker believes two Smyrna toddlers might still be alive today if the Department of Children Services had done more to protect them.

Last week, 2-year-old Savanna Harper and her 3-year-old brother, Daniel, died after police said their mother left them in a hot car.

The Channel 4 I-Team has found DCS was alerted back in September 2011 that the toddlers were in possible danger - nearly one year before they died.

There are still serious questions about whether or not DCS took any action after the first incident last year. The I-Team has asked repeatedly for DCS' side of the story, but officials would only say they investigated the toddler's mother.

Now, State Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, said there needs to be an outside investigation into DCS investigators' handling of this case.

"It's unbelievable to me that DCS has been involved in this case for some time. We have two children dead," Jones said.

Samantha Harper has been charged with aggravated child abuse, but there apparently were problems long before Harper's only children died.

According to a police report in that September 2011 case, the toddlers were found unsupervised outside. Officers even found Savanna with screwdrivers in her hand, all while her mother was asleep in a bedroom.

The report states the family's home was a "hazard to young children," because it was "messy, and in disarray." It goes on to say DCS was alerted.

Those are the same conditions police found Thursday in Smyrna where Samantha Harper and her children had been living.

"I think the children would have had a much better chance and still be alive had the department looked seriously at what was going on with those kids," Jones said.

Jones said she would like to see an outside investigation into how DCS handled the Harper case.

But she said that may not happen, because of the way the agency is run.

"DCS now investigates themselves, and that is totally improper," Jones said.

Jones, who sits on the Children and Family Committee, said she will look into whether or not an outside investigation into DCS can even be done.

DCS officials said they are working with Smyrna police, as well as doing their own investigation, but they said legally they cannot go into the details of prior investigations.

Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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