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Tennessee Continues to Improve Foster Care, Moves Closer to Exiting Court Oversight, Latest Report Shows

(Nashville, TN) — A new report released by court-appointed federal monitors this afternoon shows continued improvements in the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

The state is required to reach more than 140 benchmarks to transform its foster care system, and has successfully narrowed that down to 13. The report, which evaluates compliance on those 13 measures, is part of the reform effort known as the Brian A. lawsuit, brought by national advocacy organization Children’s Rights and a team of Tennessee attorneys.

The report notes that the state has made progress in several key areas, including the oversight and prescribing of powerful psychotropic medications, and monitoring how the state limits the use of restraints and seclusion of children in foster care.

“Tennessee has made some remarkable strides,” said Sarah Russo, staff attorney for Children’s Rights. “While we need to carefully review DCS’ performance on these remaining requirements, the report leaves us cautiously optimistic that the state continues on the path toward exiting federal court oversight.”

To exit federal oversight, the state must meet all required improvements and sustain them for a year.
At a federal court hearing on April 11, 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Todd J. Campbell will determine how many remaining requirements have been met.

Filed in 2000 by Children’s Rights and co-counsel on behalf of all foster children in state custody, the class action known as Brian A. v. Haslam charged Tennessee’s mismanaged child welfare system with violating children’s constitutional rights and causing them irreparable physical and emotional harm. Co-counsel includes David Raybin of Hollins, Raybin & Weissman and Jacqueline Dixon of Weatherly, McNally & Dixon in Nashville; Robert Louis Hutton of Glankler Brown in Memphis; and Wade Davies of Ritchie, Fels & Dillard in Knoxville.