Tennessee DCS audit covering 4 years reveals alarming problems

Updated: Dec. 8, 2020 at 10:56 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - An audit of the state agency that cares for Tennessee’s most vulnerable children has revealed alarming problems.

DCS investigates child abuse, handles foster care placement and oversees youth detention centers.

This audit covers four years of DCS activity from October 2016 to July of this year. The audit shows DCS isn’t performing adequate background checks on employees or volunteers.

Caseworkers are overworked: nearly one-fifth of DCS’s 1,800 caseworkers are juggling more than 20 cases at a time.

The staff turnover rate at The Wilder Youth Development Center in Somerville, where there have been several escapes this year, is nearly 50%.

DCS couldn’t show the juvenile detention facility met adequate staff ratio. And the deputy commissioner of Juvenile Justice didn’t meet state qualifications or have the experience required to hold the position.

DCS Commissioner Jennifer Nichols declined an on-camera interview with WMC, but she did release this statement:

”DCS has already worked diligently to address, enhance and correct our services through new policies and protocols before the comptroller released the report. In this calendar year, DCS has served more than 123,000 children in some capacity. Our 3,547 employees in all 95 counties of Tennessee know the work will not stop and neither should our constant efforts to improve.”

The auditors will present their findings to lawmakers Wednesday during a hearing in Nashville.

DCS officials will also be there to answer questions and explain what corrective measures have been taken.

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