For as long as I've lived here, the Department of Children's Services has been a mess. We've been under court order for a decade to clean up DCS's act and yet, in Tuesday's Tennessean, there's yet another story about the failure of DCS, in this case, their failure to be able to report basic information like "how many children in state custody have died this year and how many deaths occurred among children for whom the agency had ever opened a case file."
I'm having a hard time understanding why this remains a problem. Gov. Haslam likes to present himself as a guy who goes into government bureaucracies and makes them make sense and work. Okay, so here is a department that really needs someone to go in and make this make sense and work. The governor's wife's priorities are all improving outcomes for children.
So why isn't there some top-down strong leadership to get this department working?
I just don't get it. DCS is the only safety net some kinds have. If the safety net needs repair, we need to know it. If anyone — a politician like Sherry Jones or a media outlet like The Tennessean — asks for information that is necessary to evaluate the department's ability to do its job and that information is not forthcoming, that's unacceptable.
But the worst part is that the way DCS is obfuscating, it's obvious nothing much is going to change. The Comptroller's office gave them a bunch of things they needed to fix back in March and here we are, half a year later and they're saying they'll have most of them implemented by the end of the year, most being anywhere from 51 to 99 percent, which gives them a lot of wiggle room. And then there's this nonsense from Molly Sudderth, the DCS spokesperson: "We are on track to implement the majority of the recommendations by the end of this calendar year. This includes creating a new data warehouse with new reports functionality.”
I don't believe the words "new data warehouse with new reports functionality" actually mean anything. It's like some perfect marketing phrase that seems to suggest that they're going to make a new database that has the information people will want in an easy-to-retrieve form, but doesn't really commit to being a sentence that actually makes that promise.
So here's hoping I'm wrong — and that, miraculously,the department is about to genuinely reform.