DCS admits failing to report children's deaths, violating law - WSMV News 4

DCS admits failing to report children's deaths, violating law

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One of Tennessee's lawmaker's is calling for an investigation into the Department of Children's Services. DCS released a report showing dozens of children died within the first six months of 2012.

"We're talking about children's lives with no oversight," Rep. Sherry Jones said.

Jones has been demanding answers for months. She wants to know how many children have died as a result of neglect or abuse in Tennessee this year. Children known to the Department of Children's Services, like Savanna and Daniel Marise. They died last month after police said their mother left them in a hot car outside their Smyrna home. This week Jones said she finally got an answer.

"More than one child dies every month that's involved with DCS and that is astounding."

Within the first six months of 2012, 31 children died. Ten were the focus of an ongoing investigation, 17 children's cases were investigated and closed and four were in state custody. Many of whose deaths were never reported to legislators as required by law.

"They did break state law," Jones explained. "The fact that we allow people to manage these cases that have English degrees or art degrees is another problem. These cases take training, these are people's lives and they take experience."

But Brandon Gee with DCS warned, "You can't draw any conclusions just from this number."

Gee said you must consider the circumstances surrounding each case.

"Some of those kids would have come to our attention because they had a serious injury at the hands of their parents... So again it's not fair just to look at the number and say every single one of those deaths could have or should have been prevented by us."

But Gee said even one child dying is unacceptable, so the department is adopting new procedures.

"We are looking at implementing processes that have been used in high-risk industries that manage not to have very many accidents."

Jones said that's too little too late for those 31 children. Jones is calling for a full investigation of the department, at the very least, and maybe even hiring another commissioner.

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