NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Tennessee State of the Child report found the state had the highest rate of foster care instability in the nation at nearly 34%.
“In a year when we are a forced birth state, we have become a forced birth state, to not be taking care of our children is indefensible,” said Sen. Heidi Campbell (D-Nashville).
That foster problem runs hand-in-hand with overall instability at the Department of Children’s Services.
“I am told by two people in Davidson County that Davidson County workers, some have over 100 on their caseload,” Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) said.
Meanwhile, Gov. Bill Lee (R-Tennessee) recently announced the hire of over 60 new caseworkers. Johnson said that while it’s a great start, new workers start out at 10 cases and a higher salary than current ones.
“There’s a lot of frustration with workers who have been there 20 years and we got folks coming in new at more money,” she said. “Some of the sitters they’re hiring are making more money than the current workers who are there now.”
This issue isn’t a new one.
“We all know that DCS is broken,” Senate Minority Leader Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) said.
The fix is more complex. Democrats are urging Lee to take executive action to find the solution quicker.
“We have over $15 billion extra right now, and back in March in Memphis when this horrible crime happened and a woman was killed, they were able to find the money immediately to start working on this issue,” Johnson said. “How come we can’t do that with the DCS issue?”
One thing both Democrats and Republicans agree would help: streamlining the process to become a foster parent.
“We hear from a lot of foster parents that want to take children and they are not able to because of bureaucratic issues,” Campbell said. “Also, because, frankly, we don’t have enough people employed and we’re not funding these programs well.”