NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - A former longtime employee of the department of children’s services provided News4 Investigates documentation of children with violent histories that were placed with foster families in Nashville who were not trained to handle high-risk placements. 

“You’ve seen our story. Was any part of it inaccurate?” asked News4 Investigates. 

“No. Every bit of it was true,” said the former employee.

“Why did you decide to come forward?” asked News4 Investigates.

“In seeing the way that foster parents have been treated. For years. It was very disturbing to me,” the former employee said.

The former employee provided proof of her former work to News4 Investigates and said she had heard the calls from parents who were injured by violent children.

She said in many cases, the parents had no idea about the child’s prior history of violence.

The former employee provided photographs of a parent badly injured by a violent child.

“The child attacked her and (she had) a big gash on her eye. The child had grabbed the knife, she had knife cuts on both hands,” the former employee said.

News4 Investigates spoke with the injured foster parent who confirmed the details.

The former employee said the reason parents are so astonished is that DCS routinely places children with violent histories with families who are not trained to handle children with violent pasts.

The employee explained that every child in foster care is evaluated and determined to have a certain risk, with level one being the lowest, meaning the child has no criminal or psychological backgrounds.

Anything above a one, according to the former employee, should require that the child be sent with a therapeutic foster home or facility.

“These foster parents aren’t trained to deal with those type of children which puts them at risk, which puts the children at risk,” the former employee said.

That former employee provided News4 Investigates with several cases of children with criminal and violent pasts which show they were placed in level one foster homes.

In one case, a child ranked on a level 3, which is the second to highest risk, was placed repeatedly in level one homes.

One foster father spoke with News4 Investigates about having violent children repeatedly placed with him.

“You’re level one?” asked News4 Investigates.

“Correct,” the foster father said.

“So you thought you were getting kids that had no violent histories?” asked News4 Investigates.

“Correct,” he said.

“Instead, you got up to level 4?” asked News4 Investigates.

“Yes,” he said.

“There are a large number of children who are not foster home appropriate are being put in level 1 foster homes because they don’t have anywhere else to put them,” the former employee said.

Numbers released by DCS show that the number of level one foster homes have increased over the past five years, while the number of therapeutic foster homes and providers have decreased.

In 2015, DCS records show there were 117 level one foster homes, a number that raised to 169 in 2019.

In the same time frame, there were 159 therapeutic providers and foster homes, dropping down to 130 in 2019.

One foster father said he’d had his walls smashed, windows broken and consoles ripped apart by children that he had no idea had violent histories.

“We didn’t sign up to be lied to. We signed up because this is something we wanted to do to give back to the community,” he said.

That foster father recalled one time where a child became so violent that he had to call police.

“One of the policeman asked me to come to the car. When I went to the car, he showed me the child’s record. And it showed that this child has extensive violent history. (DCS) knew that – but they didn’t tell me,” the foster father said.

News4 Investigates shared all of our findings with DCS and asked for an interview.

Instead, we received an email statement, reading in part, “There are times when case managers must find safe and immediate placement before assessments are completed and without prior knowledge of a child’s full background, but case managers strive to make these placements work”.

As for why the number of foster homes in Davidson County are increasing while therapeutic homes and facilities are decreasing, the former employee said it’s a financial issue.

The former employee said it costs more to pay therapeutic foster parents and providers than it does to pay level one foster care families.

In an email to News4 Investigates, the agency disputed the former employees claims, writing, “The department makes its decisions by finding the least restrictive placement environment that can meet the clinical and assessed needs of a child -- not on the basis of money. While many Davidson children and youth are placed in their home county, we have multiple placement options in the surrounding counties and elsewhere in the state. While the balance of DCS and provider foster homes within Davidson has changed, they’ve increased in the MidCumberland region and statewide. We're always looking for more foster homes, but we have developed a robust network of placements.”

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Copyright 2020 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

Chief Investigative Reporter

Jeremy Finley is the chief investigator for News4 Investigates. His reporting has resulted in criminal convictions, legislative hearings before the U.S. Congress, and the payout of more than a million dollars to scam victims.

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