DCS chief's former agency cited for violations

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — An East Tennessee nonprofit agency received several notices of violation while under the direction of Kate O'Day, who currently serves as commissioner of the Department of Children's Services.

The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/QrD236) cited records it obtained in reporting on the violations that occurred while O'Day served as CEO of Child and Family Tennessee in Knoxville. The newspaper reviewed inspection reports for the agency from 2006 through 2009. It said reports prior to 2006 weren't available. Admissions to the agency were frozen in 2010.

O'Day took the position as DCS commissioner in 2011, and that agency has been beset by problems this year including improper payments to foster parents, not reporting child fatalities to lawmakers and data problems that mean the agency can't provide accurate information about children in its care.

The newspaper reported O'Day and the governor weren't available to comment due to budget hearings, but spokesman Dave Smith said: "During a gubernatorial transition, potential candidates come through a variety of sources. Some are generated by the transition team and others are recommended externally. Kate was well-known both to members of the administration and was highly regarded by those in her field."

O'Day took over the Knoxville agency in 2001 as it struggled financially and was under scrutiny for improperly restraining children.

According to records, the agency was one of three in the state whose admissions were stopped in 2010 after DCS, which contracted with the facility to care for children placed in foster care or residential treatment facilities, noted "concerns for the safety and well-being of custodial youths placed at Child and Family Tennessee."

The newspaper reported DCS outlined eight serious findings that included inappropriate punishments, missing medication records and not focusing on youths' "needs, strengths and permanence."

In 2009, DCS noted problems with administering medicine that weren't reported. In 2008 and 2009, DCS found that the Knoxville agency wasn't performing required background checks on employees before they began working with children. In 2008, DCS found that several serious incidents weren't reported including a youth treated at an emergency room after swallowing pills. In 2007, DCS found that some foster parents had missing background checks and in 2006, the agency found unreported medication errors.


Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com

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