Audit of DCS finds numerous problems - WSMV Channel 4

Audit of DCS finds numerous problems

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV-AP) -

An audit of the Tennessee Department of Children's Services finds that the state child-welfare agency is plagued with numerous problems including its failure to report the deaths of children in its custody.

The audit also found that DCS conducted sloppy child-abuse investigations and was not adequately tracking juvenile delinquents put on probation.

The audit, which was conducted by the state comptroller's office, was released on Monday.

It found that the agency needed to do a better job of investigating child abuse and neglect complaints. It also found that the agency had violated a state law requiring it to report the deaths of children in its custody to the legislature.

The audit attracted the attention of frequent DCS critics like State Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville.

"And I am so frustrated with everything that's going on," Jones said.

DCS has come under fire for a series of failures. A commissioner appointed last year has vowed to reform the agency.

"They want to do it as fast and as quickly as possible, and we do, too. And that's why I think you'll see us working late at night and trying to solve these problems," said DCS Commissioner Jim Henry.

"You've got to bear in mind that the department trains itself. It supervises itself. It oversees itself. And it investigates itself. And that's not good. That's not good for the department. That's not good for the children that come into contact with the department. They need outside oversight," Jones said.

DCS agreed with most everything in the report.

In response, it highlighted improvements, like a new information tracking system, new training for every caseworker and a pilot project to put tablet devices in the field to better share information.

It's slow but steady progress for those battling even their own impatience.

"We have the foundation for building the kind of department that we really want to sustain. And, of course, now that we've put all of those things into place, our job now is to make it happen," Henry said.

The state will have a smaller follow-up report on DCS in six months. Beyond that, the department wasn't able to offer much of a time frame for its improvement plans.

Copyright 2014 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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