NASHVILLE (AP) – An expert panel tasked with monitoring the Tennessee Department of Children's Services says the agency has flourished under new leadership.
According to The Tennessean, the report by the federal monitors credits new top leaders for getting the state's foster care system "back on track."
Jim Henry became DCS Commissioner after Kate O'Day resigned early last year following a public outcry over problems that included not knowing how many of the children the agency was supposed to be helping had died.
DCS has been under federal supervision since 2001, when the court found serious problems with its treatment of foster care children.
The monitors said in the report that DCS has made several improvements, though some challenges remain.
Some of the improvements highlighted in the new 505-page report include creating a new way to keep track of child deaths and investigations, recruiting new foster families, investing in ways to help foster children after they turn 18 and fixing a computer system that hindered caseworkers.
"We certainly haven't reached the finish line yet," said Ira Lustbader, associate director of Children's Rights, the New York-based advocacy group that first sued the state along with a team of Tennessee attorneys. "The state still has major work to do in order to fulfill the court-ordered promises it made to its children."
DCS spokesman Rob Johnson said the agency was pleased that recent achievements were recognized.
"We have generated a lot of momentum at DCS in the last 12 months, and we will use that energy to continue to improve outcomes for our children," he said in a statement.
Information from: The Tennessean, www.tennessean.com
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