DCS Task Force Soon to Report

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A task force on child protection wants more consistency in how reports of abuse are investigated and decisions about criminal charges are made.
The Joint Task Force on Children’s Justice/Child Sexual Abuse is putting finishing touches on its report to the governor and legislators. The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/TOAnx3 ) reported the group met Thursday to talk about how forceful and detailed the language of their final report should be if they expect to get results.
The task force has about 40 members that include Department of Children’s Services officials, doctors, law enforcement representatives, attorneys and child advocates.
The proposal includes dozens of recommendations.
“When it comes to the plan, everybody (here) already agrees with it, so the legislators are more likely to support it,” said Bonnie Beneke, task force chairwoman and executive director of Tennessee Children’s Advocacy Centers.
The consistency the group is seeking relates to Child Protective Investigative Teams. The teams exist in each county and include a detective, a prosecutor, a DSC staff member and a juvenile court representative. The task force found enforcement varies widely from county to county.
“There is a huge need for them to be attending trainings at the same time,” said Emily Cecil, CAC training coordinator. “We have this law that it has to happen, but there’s nobody to enforce it, and there’s no penalties if it’s not done correctly.”
A draft of the report due next month states there must be better communication between DCS and law enforcement and community service organizations across the state.
The department has begun a program called “In Home Tennessee” which is aimed at improving communication between DCS and community service agencies. There are 12 DCS regions and seven have initiated the program. The quarterly meetings of the task force have also given the department an avenue to update others on ongoing efforts.
Marjahna Hart, a DCS director in the Office of Child Safety, relayed DSC Commissioner Kate O’Day’s request for additional funding to hire more caseworkers and raise caseworker salaries.

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