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The future prosperity of any society depends on its ability to foster the health and well-being of the next generation. Tennessee must invest wisely in children and families. In return, the next generation will pay that back through a lifetime of productivity and responsible citizenship.
As we establish a state budget reflecting the priorities of Tennessee, we need to look to data and research to guide our choices. The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth’s annual KIDS COUNT: The State of the Child in Tennessee report on child well-being provides data to help guide priorities for children through its identification of critical issues and strategic solutions.
The report, released today, focuses on the state’s most vulnerable children, children in state custody. It provides an overview of children in state custody, services of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services and includes some recommendations for best practices in child welfare.
Innovative states and communities have been able to design high-quality programs for children in state custody. In some areas, Tennessee is on the cutting edge in implementing programs that solve problems and show significant long-term improvements for children.
“The Department of Children’s Services’ implementation of multiple responses in child protective services and evidence-based juvenile justice services are examples of effective strategies to improve these systems,” O’Neal said.
“We need to strengthen community partnerships to better meet the needs of children and families and provide services that work throughout the system. Prevention of child abuse is a community responsibility, not something the Department of Children’s Services can do alone,” she added.
One of the recommendations of the report is better planning for transitions of children for changes in placement, educational services and moving to adulthood. In 2009, the Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation creating an advisory council of children who have aged out of state custody, service providers and advocates to help identify what the state can do to improve services for children in custody.
“Effective screening and diversion programs as alternatives to detention and state custody ensure scarce and expensive resources are focused on children who most need them,” said O’Neal.
The report lists other specific recommendations, including expanding the availability of substance abuse treatment and mental health services for children and their families.
The report also lists information on 40 indicators of health, education, child welfare, economics and demographics on all Tennessee children. Facts include raw numbers and rates for health, education, economic and demographic indicators.
“Our future is based on the foundation of healthy, successful children who form the workforce of tomorrow,” O’Neal said. “We must ensure children involved with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems receive the services and supports that enable them to thrive and develop into productive citizens.”
The data in the book is also available online at http://datacenter.kidscount.org. Users can create their own graphs, maps and comparisons of the indicators at the state and county level.
The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth is an independent agency created by the Tennessee General Assembly. Its primary mission is to advocate for improvements in the quality of life for Tennessee children and families. Partial funding for TCCY’s KIDS COUNT program is provided through a grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to disadvantaged children.
For more information, contact (615) 741-2633 or a TCCY regional coordinator. KIDS COUNT: The State of the Child 2008 is available on TCCY’s website at www.tennessee.gov/tccy/kc-soc09.shtml.