Children's Rights Files Motion Charging Governor of Tennessee and Commissioner of...

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State's Noncompliance with 2001 Settlement Agreement Widespread According to Independent Court Monit

In early November 2003, the independent Court Monitor issued a Compliance Report finding the Department of Children's Services (DCS) in full or partial non-compliance with 112 of 136 different provisions of the 2001 Settlement Agreement in Brian A. v. Sundquist. In a motion filed with the Court on November 20, 2003, Children's Rights charged Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen and the Commissioner of DCS with contempt of court for failing to comply with the terms of the Settlement Agreement. The motion, filed on behalf of the more than 8,000 abused and neglected children currently in state foster care custody in Tennessee, asked federal Judge Todd J. Campbell to hold an evidentiary hearing on plaintiffs' motion, to find state officials in contempt of his 2001 Court Order endorsing the Settlement Agreement, and to name an independent court-appointed special administrator with the authority to develop and implement a plan to ensure Tennessee comes into compliance with the terms of the Brian A. Settlement Agreement.

Among the most startling determinations by the neutral Court Monitor, Sheila Agniel:

*DCS completed timely investigations of only 37% of the reports of abuse or neglect of foster children made between July 2002 and May 2003.

*Under Tennessee law, investigations must be completed within 60 days of receiving a report of abuse or neglect in foster care.

*DCS case workers made required "face-to-face" visits with children in DCS foster homes in less than 40% of the cases reviewed. The visitation numbers for children placed in private contract run foster homes and institutional facilities were even worse -as low as 13% of reviewed cases.

*These already low visitation statistics appear to be worsening with time.

*DCS provided the services to foster children needed to promote their safe reunification with their families in only half of the cases reviewed. Services for the families occurred less than a third of the time.

*DCS continues to place children in inappropriate, overcrowded, and in some cases dangerous foster homes, institutions and other facilities.

*DCS has failed to institute appropriate procedures for performing criminal records checks and child abuse registry screenings, including on DCS employees and on prospective foster and adoptive parents. Tennessee law requires criminal background checks be performed on all applicants and prospective foster and adoptive families.
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