Tag Archives: child

Child Crisis Hotline Getting Record Number of Calls

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s crisis hotline has gotten more calls over the last few months from children on the verge of suicide or in emotional distress than ever before.
The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/1cZNZyh) reports it is unclear what’s causing the increase, but noted it could mean more children in crisis or that more are aware that the hotline exists.
The Department of Mental Health and TennCare pay Memphis-based nonprofit Youth Villages to run the statewide program.
Dawn Puster, who is crisis services director for Youth Villages, says trained counselors are always available to help. In the decade since the hotline was set up, she says nearly 100,000 calls have come in with 68,000 that led to home visits.

TN Ranked 39th in Child Well-Being Study

News release from Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth:
Tennessee is 39th in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2013 National KIDS COUNT Data Book ranking of child well-being released today.
Rankings on 16 indicators are clustered in four domains — Economic Well-Being, Education, Health, and Family and Community. Tennessee improved slightly on two domains, held steady on one, and dropped on another.
“Child well-being is a barometer of the current and future well-being of the state,” said Linda O’Neal, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, state affiliate of the KIDS COUNT program, “and while we are disappointed Tennessee’s 2013 composite ranking dropped from 36th in 2012 after three years of ‘best ever’ state rankings, we are pleased to see progress in several indicators.
“Emphasis on keeping children in school in Tennessee resulted in the state scoring better than the national average in the percent of high school students graduating on time and of children in families where the household head has a high school diploma.”

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Three State Agencies Recommended for Termination

 A legislative panel has recommended termination of three state government entities as requested by
Gov. Bill Haslam‘s administration through the state Department of Health.

In all three cases, officials told a joint House-Senate Government
Operations Subcommittee that most of the duties and responsibilities of
the bodies are covered elsewhere in state government. Assuming the full
Legislature goes along next year, which is traditional, these groups
will “sunset” and cease to exist:

n The Advisory Council on Child Nutrition and Wellness, created in 2006 when
Gov. Phil Bredesen
was in office with no appointments made to fill vacancies since 2010.
Laurie Stanton, who is with the Health Department’s Office of Child
Nutrition and Wellness, said her staff now handles the data collection
and fitness promotion functions of the office.

n The Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Health, created by an executive order from then-
Gov. Ned McWherter
in 1989 and put into law by the Legislature in 1991 with the goal of
“promoting healthy lifestyles.” Stanton said the council once sponsored
a “Tennessee Sports Fest,” but that hasn’t occurred for several years.

Otherwise, she said the only direct impact will be to end an annual
“Shining Stars Awards” banquet, which the department’s website says
recognized with trophy presentations “the promotion of healthy
lifestyles by groups of Tennesseans” in the categories employers,
communities, “educational settings” and media.

n The Tennessee Alliance for Fitness and Health, set up as the fund-raising arm of the Governor’s Council.

“Unfortunately, they haven’t raised funds,” said Stanton. “They’ve run out of money.”

She said “Project Diabetes,” which received an extra $3 million in
funding through Haslam’s budget proposal for the coming years, is
largely devoted to promoting healthy lifestyles, as is an anti-obesity
initiative operated by the Health Department.  

DCS Hides Cause of Death in Some Child Death Files

Newly released records from the Department of Children’s Services contain substantial redactions of information that prevent the public from learning in some cases how children died, according to the Tennessean.
One DCS file describes a 17-month-old girl found not breathing and blue after her afternoon nap. Her family had a “vast history” of DCS interventions that stretched back eight years. But lengthy redactions conceal doctors’ conclusions about whether the toddler had suffered abuse or neglect before her death.
Those omissions from her file make it impossible to learn why an otherwise healthy child simply died. DCS notes say the agency closed the case without finding child abuse or neglect and before the agency had viewed the autopsy.
The girl’s records are among 44 newly released DCS case files of children who had been the subject of a child abuse or neglect report at some point before they died or suffered critical injuries in the latter half of 2011 and early 2012. The files were released under court order after The Tennessean led a coalition of media groups in filing a lawsuit to gain access to the records.
Many of the records contain rows of blacked-out sentences that conceal the cause and circumstance of a child’s death, the nature of injuries or illnesses, and the concerns of medical professionals. Many of the redactions appear random.

DCS Wants $32K for More Child Death Records

The Department of Children’s Services said this week that it will charge an estimated $34,952 to produce public records of children who died or nearly died during the past 11 months after having some contact with the child welfare agency, reports The Tennessean.
It is the latest five-figure price tag DCS has attached to releasing records and comes as part of an ongoing legal battle between the agency and a coalition of the state’s news organizations. Led by The Tennessean, the coalition filed suit against DCS in December. The newspaper and DCS return to court today.
The new charges emerged Wednesday after the newspaper requested that DCS produce more recent files. The Tennessean requested DCS provide records for children who died or nearly died between July 2012 and May 2013.
Calling it a new request “not subject to the Court’s order,” DCS chief attorney Doug Dimond noted in a letter that it would turn over those records only after The Tennessean agreed to pay the nearly $34,952 estimate for records of child deaths and near deaths in an 11-month span — an estimate similar an earlier DCS effort to charge $32,225 for records that covered a much larger, 3½-year time period.
In April, Chancery Court Judge Carol McCoy ordered DCS to produce records at a cost of no more than 50 cents per copy, setting aside DCS’ efforts to charge $32,225 for records.
Previously DCS had set the price tag at $55,584 for the same records.

Fired UT Foundation Executive Had Past History of Child Molestation

A federal magistrate judge today ordered a former University of Tennessee Foundation executive to be jailed pending trial in a child pornography case, reports the News Sentinel.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Clifford Shirley cited as a primary cause the fact that Bruce O. Downsbrough admitted to investigators that he had molested as many as five boys in the past.
“Taking away child pornography (as a condition of release) could actually increase the potential for contact offenses,” Shirley ruled.
Downsbrough, 60, who until last week was chief operating officer for the foundation, pleaded guilty to sexual assault on a child and sexual assault in the third degree in a 1986 Colorado case, according to testimony. The victims, according to testimony today, were ages 10 and 11.
Knoxville Police Department Investigator Tom Evans testified that Downsbrough told him he paid roughly $3,500 for counseling for the two boys.
In one case he was given a two-year deferred sentence, and the case was eventually dismissed. In the second case, he was sentenced to two years of probation, according to testimony.
It was not clear from testimony whether that conviction remains on his record.
A federal grand jury last week in East Tennessee returend a four-count indictment against Downsbrough alleging he either received in the mail or downloaded some 20,000 child pornography images as well as several videos.
His house in the Knoxville area was searched in November. He remained employed by the UT Foundation during a follow-up investigation. He was indicted last week and then terminated from his position as chief operating officer.

UT Foundation Executive Facing Child Porn Charges

From the News Sentinel:
A top officer over the University of Tennessee Foundation is facing federal child porn charges, accused of downloading and possessing illegal material on a laptop.
Bruce O. Downsbrough, the chief operating officer and executive vice president of the foundation, UT’s fundraising arm, was taken into custody Tuesday morning by agents with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, U.S. Postal Service and authorities with the Knoxville Police Department.
He has been placed on administrative leave. The investigation does not appear to be related to his duties at UT, said spokeswoman Gina Stafford in statement.
He faces a four-count indictment, which was unsealed Tuesday in U.S. District Court.
The indictment alleges that on Dec. 4, 2008, Downsbrough downloaded child pornography. He is again accused of downloading the material on Feb. 8, 2009 and on an unspecified date in April 2012.
The charging document indicates that federal authorities searched Downsbrough’s home on Nov. 16, 2012. According to records, they discovered 19 digital video discs as well as images on a computer hard drive.

Full story HERE

Judge Says DCS ‘Dropped Balls’ in Child Death Investigations

By Sheila Burke, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Nashville judge on Friday said that after seeing case files of children who were killed as a result of abuse and neglect, it’s clear that some social workers with the state Department of Children’s Services should have done more to protect them and questioned whether the young victims would ever get justice.
“There have been balls dropped by several individuals,” Davidson County Chancellor Carol McCoy said at a hearing where she released 42 records of cases of children who died or nearly died after being under the supervision of DCS at some point earlier. In all, the documents totaled about 1,600 pages. An attorney for media organizations that sought the information was in the process of making copies for each outlet, so the files were not immediately available. But the judge said they were difficult to read.
“If you have children it just gets to you,” she said of the records. The judge did not describe any of the circumstances in the files that she said disturbed her.

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DCS Disciplines Three Workers Over Child Death Records

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services has disciplined three high-ranking employees over child death record-keeping.
The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/10Ucayd ) cited internal memos in reporting the demotion of team coordinator Lisa Lund, who appealed the penalty and was reinstated with a two-day unpaid suspension. The documents also noted the two-day suspension of Director of Child Safety Marjahna Hart, who is Lund’s supervisor. Also disciplined was Carla Aaron the executive director of child safety, who oversees both Hart and Lund. Aaron received a written warning.
The Tennessean and other news organizations, including The Associated Press, sued the department to obtain records of children who died after agency contact with them.
The three employees are on the Child Fatality Review Team, which fell behind and failed to follow department policies, leading to court-ordered reforms.
Disciplinary records cited by The Tennessean show Lund was responsible for the fatality’s team’s meeting minutes, but some had errors or were incomplete and not fully reflective of the team’s discussions. Lund tried to bring the records up to date months after media and the children’s advocacy group Children’s Rights requested them.
Aaron later found Lund left out “significant portions” of the team’s minutes before they were made public. Passages left out of the first batch of documents contain key details about how DCS caseworkers made decisions about child abuse investigations.
Lund was collecting child fatality information, putting details into a digital spreadsheet as early as January 2011. However, a timeline written by Aaron shows the accuracy of the document was questioned as early as May 2012.
A memo from Department of Children’s Services Interim Commissioner Jim Henry to Lund noted the early miscounts led to “significant negative publicity in statewide media outlets (print, television and radio), as well as additional scrutiny by . the federal court.”
In arguing her appeal, Lund wrote to Henry that the department’s reliance on a spreadsheet was “flawed.”
“The spreadsheet has not been an accurate and effective means for capturing data,” she wrote.
Henry rescinded Lund’s demotion.
Lund and Aaron declined comment for the newspaper’s report.
DSC has created a new process for tracking child fatalities, to be in place by August. It requires the department to keep thorough meeting minutes and publish an annual report of fatality review findings.

DCS Has a New Plan for Dealing With Child Deaths

By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services has adopted a new plan for investigating child deaths that it says will be faster and more effective.
DCS recently faced months of criticism for failures that included not knowing how many of the children in its care had died. That culminated in the February resignation of the agency’s commissioner.
The department is involved in two lawsuits seeking more information about how it deals with child deaths and whether the current reviews are effective. The Associated Press is a party to one of those suits.
Tom Cheetham, who has been appointed to the newly created position of deputy commissioner for child health, said recently the child death reviews are of vital importance in figuring out what went wrong and preventing future deaths.
However, 2012 meeting minutes obtained by AP with a public records request, showed that most reviews by the Child Fatality Review Team at that time didn’t discuss caseworkers’ actions or make recommendations for improvements. Some employees involved in the reviews have said they were nearly useless.
The new protocol requires a rapid response to ensure the safety of siblings or other children who could be at risk.
Following that, a review must be conducted within 90 days of a death. The review also takes a “safety systems” approach used successfully in hospitals and the airline industry. That approach looks for weaknesses in the system, rather than just individual wrongdoing, and tries to put safeguards in place.
DCS is required by law to review the death or near death of any child in its custody. It also must review deaths or near deaths where there was abuse or neglect.
The new protocol adds two new categories for review — where allegations or abuse or neglect had been investigated by DCS in the previous three years and where the commissioner makes a special request for a review.
Interim Commissioner Jim Henry said recently that the nonprofit Children’s Rights, which is involved in a longstanding lawsuit with the department over its treatment of foster care children, has praised the new process, saying that it could become the “gold standard” for the nation.
The overhaul of the child death review process was ordered by the federal court in the Children’s Rights case. The new protocol was filed with the court on Thursday.