NASHVILLE — Legislation sponsored by Senator Doug Overbey (R-Maryville) that sets minimum disclosure requirements for the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) after a fatality or near fatality of a child, is headed to Governor Bill Haslam for his signature after receiving House and Senate approval. Senate Bill 2112 would place into law disclosure requirements which have been voluntarily implemented by DCS Commissioner Jim Henry regarding investigations of abuse and neglect in these cases. Overbey said the legislation would ensure that the policy will not change under a new department head or gubernatorial administration.
“This legislation just makes certain that the state continues to disclose information regarding deaths or near fatalities of children in DCS custody as implemented by Commissioner Henry when he took the helm of this department,” said Senator Overbey. “There is nothing more important than the safety of the children entrusted into the care of the state. We just want to see that this open policy continues down the road, regardless of who is in control.”
Senate Bill 2112 requires DCS to release the child’s age, gender, and a history of the department’s involvement with the child within five business days of the child’s fatality as a result of abuse or neglect. At the closure of DCS’s investigation, the department must release the final disposition of the case, whether the case meets criteria for a child death review, and the full case file. Following DCS’s final classification of a child abuse or neglect near fatality, the department would be required to release a full case file. The legislation authorizes the redaction of any case file to comply with current confidentiality requirements. Records in fatality cases are regularly redacted and released in a de-identifying manner.
“It is very important that we address these very serious matters as openly as possible,” added Overbey. “I am pleased that the Senate has approved the bill and that this administrative policy will soon become law so that these actions will be permanent.” ###