Tennessee's Department of Children's Services (DCS) is a troubled agency.
This much seems fairly clear. The Tennessean, a major TN news outlet, even created a special landing page on its website devoted solely to cataloging and categorizing the many stories it's published about DCS problems, legal cases, and outright failures, including a number of child deaths.
And it looks as if the agency is, perhaps unsurprisingly, somewhat reluctant to let some statewide sunshine into its files, having recently asserted a fee of $34,000 to reproduce files regarding child deaths in DCS custody for news agencies, who are challenging similar fee assessments in court.
So it isn't really surprising that six months into his new position, recently appointed DCS Commissioner Jim Henry is making the media rounds, seeking to improve the department's standing in the perception of Tennessee citizens and officials.
In a recent piece for The Tennessean, columnist Gail Kerr writes:
In a candid session with The Tennessean’s editorial board, Henry made it clear there are no magic bullets to fix the beleaguered, dysfunctional department. But he has pulled out a lot of heavy shrapnel and his aim is true.
“We don’t underestimate the job we’ve got to do,” Henry said as he wrapped up the 90-minute meeting. “We want these children to be safe.”
It was the difference between a dark closet and a sunlight-filled room compared with how his predecessor, Kate O’Day, handled things at DCS, the state’s critically important department charged with keeping our children safe from abusive, scary and drug-addicted grownups.
The column makes note of some of the many changes Henry says he's implementing in the troubled agency, including a three-week class on forensic investigation techniques.
Three whole weeks. Is that enough?
Given that nowhere in this article can one find any mention of steps taken to improve response to false abuse allegations, one may well wonder.