DCS granted more flexibility in spending federal funds

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services is getting more flexibility in how it uses federal funding.

The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/1cdWACE ) reports the state agency will be able to spend $40 million that is currently earmarked for foster children on efforts to keep children with their own families.

The agency will be able to help families that need food, help housing or counseling services.

The initiative begins next October. Tennessee is one of seven states that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services selected to take part in a federal pilot project that changes how child welfare systems are funded.

Officials say the goal is to keep children out of foster care. Tennessee has about 7,300 children in foster care.

“The waiver represents a real opportunity for Tennessee as we continue to work to keep our kids safe, make them healthy and get them back on track,” said DCS Commissioner Jim Henry. “It also demonstrates that DCS is committed to finding innovative, effective solutions to help keep families together.”

DCS spokesman Rob Johnson said the grant will keep funding levels at DCS about the same. He said funding for foster children won’t be cut.

“It gives us more flexibility to use those dollars in other ways that produce good outcomes for kids,” he said.