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Methodology and Parameters

The Department of Children's Services shall release certain information related to child deaths and near deaths in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. 37-5-107(c)(4).

In 2013, DCS adopted new criteria for tracking and reporting child deaths and near deaths in a manner that is consistent with our mission.

The Department tracks custody deaths, non-custody deaths, custody near deaths, and non-custody near deaths, which are defined as follows:

  • Custody Death: any child in the state of Tennessee who is in the custody of the Department of Children's Services at the time of his or her death. 
  • Non-Custody Death: any child in the state of Tennessee who is not in DCS custody at the time of death and his or her death is investigated as an allegation of abuse or neglect by DCS.
  • Custody Near Death: any child in the state of Tennessee who is in DCS custody who has a serious or critical medical condition resulting from child abuse or child sexual abuse, as reported by a physician who has examined the child subsequent to the abuse. This is defined in TCA 37-5-107. The Department has elected to exceed the statutory definition to include more situations as near deaths. As such, the Department will record a near death for a child in custody if the allegation of abuse or neglect is substantiated and a physician reviews the case and determines the child was in a serious or critical medical condition.
  • Non-Custody Near Death: any child in the state of Tennessee who is not in DCS custody who has a serious or critical medical condition resulting from child abuse or child sexual abuse, as reported by a physician who has examined the child subsequent to the abuse. This is defined in TCA 37-5-107. The Department has elected to exceed the statutory definition to include more situations as near deaths. As such, the Department will record a near death for a child not in custody if the allegation of abuse or neglect is substantiated and a physician reviews the case and determines the child was in a serious or critical medical condition.
  • Previous History: any Tennessee DCS contact with a child or family occurring within 3 years of the child's death or near death, as documented in the Department's Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System reporting system.