DCS Balks at Newspaper Request for Child Death Records

The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services refused to provide The Tennessean with complete records regarding child deaths on Tuesday, the newspaper reports.
The newspaper repeatedly has asked for an accounting of how 31 children, who had been reported to the state’s child protection agency, died in the first six months of this year.
In the past three months, the newspaper has made multiple requests for records that would show what the $650 million child welfare agency did — or did not do — to protect those children. On Nov. 28, the newspaper’s attorney again asked for the records.
On Monday, the state’s largest newspapers and television stations were among media outlets to join The Tennessean’s formal request.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press, the Knoxville News Sentinel and The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal all joined The Tennessean in asking DCS to open its records on child fatalities. Four of the state’s television stations have also joined the request, including WSMV-TV Channel 4 and WKRN-TV Channel 2 in Nashville, WREG-TV Channel 3 in Memphis and WBIR-TV Channel 10 in Knoxville. The Associated Press and the Tennessee Press Association also have joined the request to make the records public.
The Tennessean and other media outlets asked that the agency provide, by Tuesday, records for the 31 children who died this year, as well as all the child fatalities or near fatalities for children brought to the department’s attention since 2009.
In a letter sent to Tennessean attorney Robb Harvey on Tuesday evening, Deputy Attorney General Janet Kleinfelter declined the request.
“A full consideration of the legal arguments and authorities, including those discussed in your letter of November 28, supports the Department’s determination that it has produced all the documents that it can consistent with the provisions of state and federal law,” she wrote.

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