NASHVILLE (AP) – A report from the state Second Look Commission cites what members called "gaping holes" in the child welfare system.
According to The Tennessean, the annual report looked into what the commission termed the worst incidents of child abuse in Tennessee.
The report stated there were missed opportunities to protect children, even in cases where authorities knew families were abusive. The commission recommends more training for not only Department of Children's Services caseworkers, but also police and mental health providers.
"The SLC determined there are significant problems with the manner in which severe child abuse cases are being handled in Tennessee," the report states. "It will take a concerted and sustained effort to peel away the many layers of this complex issue to get to the core."
The recommendations by the commission include employees of the various agencies taking training together, said Carla Aaron, director of child safety for DCS and a member of the commission.
"What I can impact within DCS, certainly, we will try to weave it in," she said. "Several of the recommendations we have already begun working on."
The 17 members of the commission include lawmakers, judges, doctors, lawyers, police and child advocates. The Legislature created the panel in 2010 to examine cases in which children suffered severe abuse more than once.
The panel found some child abuse investigators give up too easily and unshared information allowed serious concerns to continue without investigation. In one case, a child was left with drug-using caregivers because they wouldn't cooperate even though police were able to glean information in the incident.
Commission director Craig Hargrow said some investigations were closed before complete services to aid the families could be arranged.
"What we're seeing this year is caseworkers identifying an issue or a safety hazard and addressing the hazard but not particularly addressing why the hazard is there in the first place," Hargrow said.
The report cited, as an example, a girl placed with an out-of-state relative only to end up moving across multiple states and in and out of foster care.
"Approximately two years later, she found herself back in Tennessee, off her much-needed medication, without a home and not in school," the report states.
The commission recommended increasing domestic violence penalties, a more thorough examination of the health of children exposed to methamphetamine and a DCS review of how it approved foster families and custodians to care for children.
Information from: The Tennessean, www.tennessean.com
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