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Partnership Driving A Better Future

Tennessee Department of Human Services teams with TALS and MALS to help people regain control of their lives.
Wednesday, December 13, 2017 | 10:05am

Memphis – Tennesseans who are struggling to support themselves without a driver license found help through a Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) partnership known as Cycles of Success.

TDHS started the program with the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) and the Memphis Area Legal Services (MALS) last year to help recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) identify and solve legal problems. 

Cycles of Success provides a free legal wellness checkup to help participants identify issues that need attention. The program quickly identified driver license suspension and revocation as one of the bigger problems in the Memphis area. More than 41% of those enrolled in the program through the beginning of December did not have a valid driver license, mostly because of unpaid court costs related to traffic accidents or violations.  

Shelby County mother Kassie Small is among them.  She says not having a valid license kept her from getting a job and made it much more challenging to take her three children to the doctor. 

“You never realize how much you rely on driving.  It’s something I always just took for granted,” said Small. “It is hard to balance three young kids and groceries on a bus ride and then walking back home.”

“Recognizing that TDHS and TALS serve the same people, the program is designed to make it easier for clients to access resources in one place and start on a path to success,” said TALS executive director Ann Pruitt.

Attorneys with the Memphis Area legal Services (MALS) are helping clients get on that successful path by creating a clinic to teach clients their rights regarding license suspension and revocation. Participants learned the steps to obtain a restricted driver license and how to appeal a suspension or revocation.

“The Cycles of Success program is an example of how public and nonprofit alliances can create systemic changes,” said MALS Executive Director Harrison McIver.  “Losing a driver license can create real barriers that prevent people from building the life they want.”

“I am a strong believer that partnerships provide the best path to help the people we serve take the steps they need to improve their lives,” said TDHS Commissioner Danielle W. Barnes.  “We can’t build the thriving Tennessee we want to build if our communities remain severely burdened by minor legal issues.”

In its first year of operation, Cycles of Success has additionally helped participants with advice or representation in other areas including: divorce, orders of protection, child custody, landlord-tenant disputes, student loan debt, car purchases, income taxes, identity theft and bankruptcy.

Participants also get access to their “legal coach,” a TALS attorney who makes monthly calls to check in and see if any other issues have arisen.

Learn more about the Tennessee Department of Human Services at www.tn.gov/humanservices.   

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CONTACT:  Sky Arnold

OFFICE:  615-313-5551