Law offers better oversight of adopted Tennessee children

A Tennessee law was enacted after the bodies of two adopted East Tennessee children were found buried in the adoptive family’s backyard.
Published: Aug. 10, 2022 at 5:24 PM CDT

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -A Tennessee law was enacted after the bodies of two East Tennessee children were found buried in the backyards of their adoptive family’s homes.

State Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston) said he was determined to make a change for the wellbeing of adopted children after the cases of two children who were adopted by Michael Gray Sr. and his wife Shirley Gray.

The bill (SENATE BILL NO. 270) in which Yager sponsored, made it mandatory for adoptive parents who receive federal or state-funded assistance to provide verification that the child is still alive and doing well.

”I was moved by the horrific news that came out of those investigations where some children were actually staved to death and kept in cages and then sadly were buried both in Knox County and Roane County and it caused me to look into how we did things with DCS and discovered that basically, adoptive parents who were receiving adoptive assistance payments, once the contract has been executed there was really no oversight,” Yager shared.

The law went into effect on July, 1 2021.

Nicole Coning, the CEO of Harmony Family Center said the organization is working with DCS to make sure more children don’t slip through the cracks.

“Harmony has partnered with the department of children’s services to pick up this piece of work moving forward. So our team of post adopt, annual review, coordinators and program managers will do nothing but manage those verifications and the letters going out and the information that is coming back in for roughly 11,000 families statewide that are receiving active adoptive assistance,” said Coning.

Yager said the data that is collected from the first year could prompt additional changes.

“We want to see the numbers from the full year and then we might take a look at it,” explained Yager.

The Grays face murder charges in Knox and Roane counties. They are scheduled to stand trial in both cases next year.

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