HHS Recognizes Tennessee´s Dramatic Child Welfare Gains

Sunday, May 07, 2006 | 07:00pm

NASHVILLE – Noting Tennessee’s dramatic improvements in four crucial child-welfare measures, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has determined that the Department of Children’s Services has successfully completed its Performance Improvement Plan.

In 2002, HHS reviewed child-welfare performance across the county. Every state was found deficient in the benchmarks that measure the safety, permanency and well-being of the children in its custody, and every state had to develop a plan to address those problems. Tennessee is one of only 15 states the federal government has judged to have successfully carried out such a plan.

Governor Phil Bredesen appointed Viola Miller as Tennessee’s DCS commissioner in early 2004, charging her with making the federally required performance improvement plan as one of her top priorities for the department.

“The federal government acknowledges that DCS has improved drastically since their 2002 review,” Bredesen said. “It represents the hard work that is taking place to improve child safety, and it demonstrates that children are returning home or finding a permanent placement much more quickly.”

Added Miller: “The really good news is that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has found that Tennessee’s improvement has been dramatic. On four national measures, DCS has shown that its improvements have been among the best in the country. While we continue to have a long way to go in our efforts to reform child welfare in Tennessee, today’s news signals that Tennessee is well on its way to the comprehensive reform its children deserve.”

Specifically, the four crucial measures include time to adoption, time to reunification, number of placement moves and number of re-entries into foster care. Since 2002, DCS improved 23 percent on its re-entry rate and is now at the national standard of 8.6 percent or below. It improved 18 percent on reunification, now at 76 percent — only .2 percent below the national standard of 76.2 percent. DCS also improved 78 percent on adoptions and 13 percent on placement stability.

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