September 2023 Open Line

Child Welfare Worker Appreciation Week

We celebrated Child Welfare Worker Appreciation Week (Sept 11 – 15) all across the state.

Staff members were presented with swag showing off the department’s new Children First! logo. Executive Leadership visited each region to help celebrate staff.

Governor Bill Lee stopped by the Davidson County regional office to speak with DCS employees.

Northeast Regional Annual Staff Celebration

Northeast regional staff received lunch provided by Isaiah House and The Red Pig in Johnson City. Staff were excited to receive new DCS swag! There was also a random raffle drawing where staff received extra goodies a good time was had by all.

DCS Talks Podcast

This month’s DCS Talks Podcast topic is the Caring Dads Program. It’s a great episode with lots of good information about the impact a father’s actions can have on the family unit.

Spotify -
Apple Podcasts -

Children’s Bureau Visit

Children’s Bureau Associate Commissioner Aysha Schomburg visited the Central Office earlier this month. She visited programs and partners around the mid-state. 

Knox Region Foster Compliance Champions

Compliance Champions

Our staff & foster parents in Knox County are number one in the state for foster parent training compliance!! Staff enjoyed a pizza party to celebrate the success. 

Shout Out to the Grace House

Shout Out to The Grace House

Nicole Miller, Drug Endangered Children Coordinator with Lawrence County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition (sponsor of The Grace House transitional home) in Lawrence County, celebrated staff on September 18th as they were discussing successes and opportunities for improvement at The Grace House. We have seen an increase in both the number of children who require a transitional setting and an increase in the level of need of the children being served and she has worked to ensure that the needs of children and staff are met while they are being served in one of their homes.

DCS Facebook Page

Last week we successfully merged all the regional DCS Facebook pages into the main page, which will be managed by the Communications Team. The merged page now has 45K followers! Please continue to send any positive, heartwarming stories (especially ones that include photos or videos) from your region to  so they can be considered for social posts. 

DCS Facebook Page Merge

Kids Community Bike Ride

DCS supported the inaugural Kids Community Bike Ride in Cookeville last weekend. 150 enthusiastic kiddos had a blast participating in the 1-mile bike ride. They also learned about CPR, bike safety, and got to meet with first responders.  The event was presented by Carmen’s Fund, a program named after Assistant Commissioner Mike Burnette’s late wife. Carmen Burnette was a well-known paramedic in Putnam County before her untimely death in 2011. She was also a passionate advocate for CPR training and education. Here are some photos from the event. 

Employee of the Month

We would like to recognize Shirley Verble as Central Office’s Employee of the Month for September 2023. Shirley is an Admin Secretary for the DCS Education Division.

"In partnership with the Governor's Books from Birth Foundation, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library program ensures that new, age-appropriate books are mailed to preschool children, at no cost to the families and regardless of income in all 95 Tennessee Counties. Children ages 0-5 are eligible to receive one book per month, totaling 60 books over the course of five years.

Shirley works with the Governor's Early Literacy Foundation to ensure that the qualifying children in DCS custody receive their Imagination Library books. She maintains a database that keeps up with the children's placement addresses, placement changes, and when they enter custody. She works very hard to ensure the children receive their books, by reporting to the Governor's team on a monthly basis.

Shirley has been working in the DCS Education Division for 16 years and is a vital member of the team that operates our school district. Shirley is very dedicated and loves the population she serves. She goes above and beyond in all areas of her job."

-Cyndi Chester, DCS Education Consultant III 

Shirley Verble


We love to share these incredible adoption stories from across the state. Please continue to send them to the communications team!

Kirkendhall Family

This is an adult adoption with a wonderful back story. Back in May, Stephen Everett attended the state capitol tour and DCS lunch accompanied by his foster parent Mr. Kirkendhall.  Stephen created the “We Need a Home Not a Hotel” phrase that we all use now.  He had expressed a desire to be adopted as an adult and they were exploring this option.  That desire became a reality earlier this month. Stephen’s adoption was finalized, and he chose to change his last name to Kirkendhall.

Kirkendhall Adoption

Bates Family

Party of FIVE! Congratulations to the Bates family. Avah, Alexander, and Ethan were adopted by Ashley and Michael Bates on 8.31.23. We are so happy for this forever family.

Bates Family Adoption

Harms Family

Zachary Harms joined his forever family on 9.26.23 after more than 500 days in foster care.

Harms Adoption

Gant Family

Kairo Amir Gant (adoptive name) was adopted into his forever family on  9/12/23. He’s pictured here with his mother Arianna Gant.

Gant Adoption

Phillips Family

Mallory Phillips joined her forever family on 9.5.23. 

Mallory Phillips Adoption
DCS Real Estate Plan

DCS Real Estate Plan

"We are forging a new path and reimagining possibilities for Tennessee's children in need." Earlier this month, the State Building Commission approved $107M in additional funding for DCS's first-of-its-kind real estate plan.

Read more about the project and what it means for the future of DCS:

Path Line for Teens

Jonathan’s Path “Path Line” is open!  The Path Line is a direct line for teens in foster care and EFC to reach out to get the help they need/want without the wait.

Jonathan’s Path can help teens in so many ways. Here are a few examples: 

  • Teens in EFC who need help figuring out what’s next
  • Teens playing sports who need new equipment
  • Teens who need a tutor for school
  • Teens who need help figuring out what to do after high school.

Teens can call Path Line anytime. They just need to register online by going to and clicking “The Path Line” to sign up.

Knox County Safe Policy

Regional Leadership participated in the Knox County Safe Policy Meeting.  This meeting is hosted by the Knox County Juvenile Court Judge, Tim Irwin, and includes leadership from various community partners including DCS, Knox County Schools, Knox County Sheriff’s Department, Knoxville Police Department, Knox County Government, the District Attorney’s office, the Boys and Girls Club, the TN Highway Patrol, and others to discuss and share ways to best work together to ensure ongoing community safety as it relates to the children served, as well as provide updates on community risks and threat assessments.  We remain appreciative of the community involvement in working together for a safer community for our kids and our staff working in the community, as well as the ongoing partnerships/relationships built during these meetings.

Racial Justice Spotlight

Every month the DCS Racial Justice Workgroup spotlights an individual, group, company, or movement that has had a positive impact on the Black community. 

This month’s spotlight is R.H. Boyd Publishing Corporation – which produces, publishes, and distributes Christian resources. The Boyd family’s roots run deep in Nashville’s history. Here's more information: DCS Racial Justice Workgroup (

Responding to Child Abuse Podcast

Rebecca Bevans & Brittany Potts shared their expertise on responding to child sex abuse in this podcast with CACTN. They walk step-by-step through how cases in Tennessee are investigated and handled by DCS and our partners.

Tennessee’s Multidisciplinary Response to Child Abuse w/ Rebecca Bevans (DCS) & Brittany Potts (Davis House) - Chat with the Chapter | Podcast on Spotify

Chat with the Chapter - Tennessee’s Multidisciplinary Response to Child Abuse w/ Rebecca Bevans (DCS) & Brittany Potts (Davis House) (

Park After Dark

Park After Dark

The Discovery of America was the location of Park After Dark, sponsored by the Foster and Adoptive Ministry of Obion County. The entire park was made available to DCS foster families AND our staff! 

Knox County Provider Fair

DCS's vision to put Children First wouldn't be possible without our partner agencies that provide essential tools for our staff and the families we serve. Here’s a short video from a recent provider fair in Knox County.

Best of Me is in 2023

September 29, 2023

Pick TN Products

Pick Tennessee Products Photo Contest

Photo submission: Oct. 2-10
Voting: Oct. 16-19

Join the Working for a Healthier Tennessee Pick Tennessee Products Photo Contest. Submit up to one photo per category:

  • Farmers Market – Show off your fall farmers market haul!
  • Homegrown Harvest – Share your homegrown fall fruit and/or vegetable harvest.
  • Fall Recipe – Let’s see your homemade dishes featuring fall fruits and/or veggies.
  • Pumpkin Patch – Share your pumpkin pics!

Submit photos by Tuesday, Oct. 10:

Winners will be featured on the Working for a Healthier Tennessee Facebook page:

Bike Ride Challenge

October Bike Ride Challenge

The Department of Labor and Workforce Development's Wellness Council invites you to join in the October Bike Ride Challenge! During the month of October, keep track of your mileage and/or number of bike rides. If you submit either by Friday, Nov. 3 you'll be entered in a prize drawing!

Read and agree to these terms and wavier before registering:

Sign up:

*Personal tracker + link to submit will be provided.

Dance Break

Upcoming Virtual Events

Dance Break
Tuesday, Oct. 3 from 12–12:15 p.m. CT

Join this 15-minute live, virtual dance class that’s fun for all fitness levels.

This class is brought to you by volunteer dance instructors and state employees Adrienne Hackney, Denise M. Galben and Kendra Thomas in partnership with Working for a Healthier Tennessee.

Attire: Anything you can move in

Equipment needed: Nothing, except plenty of space to move around

Download calendar series.

Upcoming activities, webinars, and workouts:

Can’t attend the live event?

Check out this 17-minute Walking Disco Workout.

In case you missed it: Last week, Tennessee State Government employees gathered virtually to test their whole grains knowledge. If you couldn’t join the fun, take this quiz by Friday, Oct. 13 for a chance to win one of three prizes!

Whole Grains Trivia:

5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique for Anxiety

Grounding techniques are sometimes called coping techniques. They can help ease anxiety and simplify thoughts. Try this when your mind is very active.

Apple Peanut Butter Smoothie

Recipe of the Week

October is National Apple Month!

Celebrate this in-season produce by enjoying an Apple Peanut Butter Smoothie. You can use any variety of apples that you have on hand. Sweet and crisp apples like Fuji, Gala, and Honeycrisp would work well, but you can also use Granny Smith for its sharp, tart flavor. There's no need to peel the apple for this recipe - simply remove the core and seeds. The whole fruit, peel and all, is nutritious and includes fiber that will help keep you satisfied.

September 22, 2023

Practice Food Safety

Practice Food Safety

Ensure You’re Practicing food safety.

Fruits and vegetables provide important nutrients vital to our health. However, produce can become contaminated at any point in the farm-to-fridge journey. Learn tips for handling produce safely: (PDF)

Whole Grains Month

Upcoming Virtual Events

Whole Grains Trivia
Thursday, Sept. 28 from 12-12:30 p.m. CT

September is Whole Grains Month! Test your whole grains knowledge in this live trivia game led by WFHTN Wellness Coordinator Morgan Blake.  The top three winners will be awarded a prize! An additional prize will be awarded to a participant chosen at random. We’ll play using Mentimeter.

Download calendar invite.

Can’t join us live? A link to this quiz will be available on WFHTN’s Wellness Events webpage on Friday, Sept. 29.

You can access all upcoming activities, webinars, and workouts at

Can’t attend a live event?

Check out Working for a Healthier Tennessee’s Healthy Eating Resources.


Spotlight on TalkSpace

Something on your mind? Connect with a dedicated therapist anytime, anywhere. With Talkspace online therapy, you can regularly communicate with a therapist safely and securely from your phone or desktop. Make continual progress at your pace. No in-person office visit is required.

Talkspace is your space. To use in your time. It’s private, confidential, convenient and it’s included as part of your EAP and behavioral health benefits. Learn more:

Veggie Freezer Breakfast Sandwich

Recipe of the Week

September is Better Breakfast Month!

Make your breakfast even better with these Veggie Freezer Breakfast Sandwiches. Meal prep six days of breakfast at once with these veggie-packed, freezer-ready breakfast sandwiches to stay on track on those busy mornings!

September 15, 2023

National Cholesterol Education Month

National Cholesterol Education Month

September is National Cholesterol Education Month

Cholesterol can be confusing! That’s why we’re taking it back to the basics. Test your cholesterol smarts with this quiz, and learn how managing your cholesterol can help prevent heart disease and stroke. Take a screenshot of your completed quiz and email it to for a chance to win one of three prizes!

Join Cholesterol 101 (Presented by ActiveHealth)
Friday, Sept. 22 from 10-10:30 a.m. CT

Did you know that high cholesterol levels raise your risk for heart disease? It’s true. If your cholesterol levels are high, your risk could be twice as high as people with ideal levels. In this session, you’ll learn ways to lower your risk.
Download calendar invite.

Upcoming Virtual Events

Meditation Break with Nat
Wednesday, Sept. 20 from 11:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. CT

Give your mind a break with live, virtual meditation.

This class is brought to you by volunteer instructor and state employee Nat Chapman from the Department of Human Services in partnership with Working for a Healthier Tennessee.

Download calendar invite.

Upcoming activities, webinars and workouts:

Can’t attend a live event? Check out the video below! (10 minutes)

Chicken Veggie Enchiladas

Recipe of the Week

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! 🎉

Celebrate with these 25-minute Chicken Veggie Enchiladas. These chicken enchiladas are great for using up any veggies you have lingering in your fridge. This chicken enchilada recipe calls for zucchini, squash, and onion, but you could easily swap in spinach or potatoes. Enchiladas are a traditional Mexican food that, in its earliest form, was recognized as simply a tortilla smothered in chili sauce. The definition of an enchilada has grown to encompass new variations on that theme with tortillas rolled around fillings that include cheese, veggies, and/or meat. Depending on their region of origin, they can be made with flour or corn tortillas, smothered in a variety of sauces from red enchilada sauce to green chili sauce, and are often topped and baked with cheese.

September 8, 2023

Whole Grains Month

Whole Grains Month

How do you enjoy whole grains?

September is Whole Grains Month! Do you use whole wheat tortillas for taco night? Go for brown rice instead of white in your stir fry? Share how you eat more whole grains at meals:

Three participants chosen at random will win a prize!

4mind4body webinar: Simplify Work, Life and You

Upcoming Virtual Events

4mind4body webinar: Simplify Work, Life and You
Wednesday, Sept. 13 starting at 11:30 a.m. CT

Are you feeling overwhelmed by everything life throws your way? We’ll take a closer look at how you can organize your time and manage commitments. Learn how to prioritize tasks and procrastinate less. You’ll leave with strategies to help create a more balanced life.


Live Panel Discussion

Health Experts in Real Life: Live Panel
Thursday, Sept. 14 from 1-1:30 p.m. CT

You might think health experts don’t experience struggles when it comes to health and wellness, but this simply isn’t true. Join the Working for a Healthier Tennessee team for a live panel discussion to learn how they handle their struggles.

Download calendar invite.

You can access all upcoming activities, webinars, and workouts at

Can’t attend a live event?

Check out Deskercises: Neck and Shoulder Stretches. (2 minutes)

Ants on a Log

Recipe of the Week

September 12 is Ants on a Log Day!  Enjoy this fun, healthy snack for all ages. Combining protein (peanut butter) and fiber (celery and raisins) is a great way to ensure your snack keeps you fuller, longer.

September 1, 2023

Yoga Awareness Month

September is Yoga Awareness Month

There are many ways to celebrate! It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or an experienced yogi:

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Upcoming Virtual Events

Suicide Prevention (Presented by Optum Health)
Thursday, Sept. 7 from 12-12:45 p.m. CT

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in Tennessee, according to the CDC's latest reports, so suicide prevention must be taken seriously. This training program raises awareness of the risk factors of suicide and how to intervene if you believe someone is at risk.


Upcoming activities, webinars, and workouts:

Can’t attend the live event?

Check out the article Preventing Suicide at Work.

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

Spotlight on Suicide Prevention

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

The Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services has an extensive list of resources.

BBQ Chicken & Sweet Potato Bowls

Recipe of the Week

September is National Chicken Month!

Celebrate this healthier protein choice by enjoying BBQ Chicken and Sweet Potato Bowls. This easy sheet pan recipe is perfect for meal-prepping lunches for work or a quick weeknight meal.