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AP: DCS Has Trouble Keeping Up With Kids Dying in State Custody

By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — At its most basic level, the job of child welfare agencies is to keep children alive. Recently, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services has had trouble keeping track of how many children died in its custody.
The disarray in the department’s records revealed in two court proceedings has child advocates wondering whether the agency’s clerical and administrative troubles could be putting children in jeopardy.
“The big picture here is that the state has to have a way to accurately track all child deaths and DCS needs a process for investigating all child deaths thoroughly. We learned recently that they don’t have either,” said Ira Lustbader, associate director of the advocacy group Children’s Rights, which works with independent monitors to keep track of how well DCS cares for foster children.
Tennessee taxpayers know next to nothing about what DCS does. Officials have for years refused to comment about how they handle cases of abuse or neglect, claiming confidentiality even after children died. What little is known has come from heavily redacted files that news organizations, including The Associated Press, have obtained under public records requests and by court order. Those requests have centered on getting information about 200 DCS investigations of abuse and neglect reports of children who later died or were seriously injured between 2009 and last year.

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