Editorial: DCS needs to show marked improvement

Jan. 28, 2014 @ 11:31 PM

Every few months it seems a new scandal involving the Tennessee Department of Children's Services surfaces.

The most recent controversy stems from an audit conducted by the state comptroller's office. The audit was released Monday, and found that the child-welfare agency has numerous problems — including carelessness in its child abuse investigations.

It was also discovered that DCS was not adequately tracking juvenile delinquents on probation and the agency had also failed to report the deaths of children in its custody, as required by law, the Associated Press reported.

The review looked at the a six year period — from May 2007 to October 2013. Three different commissioners led the agency during that time.

It's a shame that the state can't have better protective services for its children. They're the one group in the state most in need of protection.

We've all known good, hardworking people employed at DCS — and the report isn't lambasting the ground-level workers.

Instead it's focusing in on the organization itself, the way its run and the shortcuts it takes, although it does indicate the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is working with DCS employees to refine their investigative skills.

For years everyone's heard of DCS workers' excessive caseloads, limited power to act in cases of abuse and the organization's hesitance to cooperate with those investigating its practices.

According to the AP, the audit's findings were discussed by state lawmakers Monday during a joint subcommittee of government operations.

"Lawmakers, conducting a routine debate on whether the agency should continue to exist, decided to give the department three more years so (DCS Commissioner Jim) Henry can implement all his reforms," the AP's Sheila Burke reported. "Still, lawmakers want the auditors to give them an update in six months."

It's a situation that's reached its tipping point.

If things don't improve quickly, the state government needs to take bold action. The state's children, especially those who need children's services in the first place, deserve it.