Health
1:04 pm
Mon November 12, 2012

Tennessee Lawmaker Calls on Governor to Oust DCS Chief

A Tennessee legislator who repeatedly asked the Department of Children's Services for information is calling for the commissioner's ouster. State Rep. Sherry Jones, a Democrat from Nashville, is asking Gov. Bill Haslam to remove DSC Commissioner Kate O'Day, according to The Tennessean.

"It's time for O'Day to resign or for the governor to step in and replace her," Jones said.

"She has had two years, and there is nothing getting better at the Department of Children's Services," Jones added. "As a matter of fact, it's getting worse."

In her budget presentation to Haslam last week, O'Day offered nothing that indicated a turnaround was coming at DCS, Jones said.

A statewide association of groups which do business with DCS also expressed frustration with O'Day, saying she has not responded to requests to meet with the group.

Darci Halfman, executive director of the Tennessee Alliance for Children and Families, said O'Day hasn't met with the group in more than a year and noted the previous DSC commissioner met with the alliance quarterly. The group issued a public request to meet with O'Day.

The alliance includes 39 agencies which, combined, provide services to half of the children under DCS care.

Haslam defended O'Day last week, saying his department head seeks to correct the agency's problems.

"I have known and worked around Kate for a long time," the governor said. "She's a person with great compassion for children. She's smart and understands this business, and she wants to get it right.

"When I have somebody who really wants to make it right, is bright and looks around the country to find the best solutions and cares about kids, I think that's the right formula," Haslam said.

A number of problems have plagued the department. Among them was a computer system that failed to make proper payments to foster parents and private agencies. The department's attorney acknowledged DSC had violated law by failing to tell legislators about deaths of children who had come into contact with the department. As many as a quarter of the calls made to a statewide child abuse hotline rang unanswered.