DCS Commissioner denies major issues after large budget request

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services (DCS) said it’s made some gains since its budget hearings last year.

Notably, the department has cut average caseloads per worker down, and case manager vacancies are down, too.

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The issue the department faces now is its care of children in transitional homes.

“Children in transitional homes are in very difficult circumstances. They’re coming into custody, they’ve experienced complex trauma, it’s a very difficult situation,” Commissioner Margie Quin said. “But they’re under the direct supervision of DCS staff and behavior health specialists.”

Though Quin said in a budget hearing Wednesday, transitional and foster homes are areas where DCS is struggling, basing over half of its budget request there. The department ultimately asked for a hair over $180 million.

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“We’ve moved to a better situation with transitional housing, still critiquing conditions in some settings,” Gov. Bill Lee (R-Tennessee) asked Quin during the budget hearing. “Where are we headed with that?”

“We know there are issues with kids waiting to be placed and we want to place them as quickly as possible,” Quin said. “We have a new team in place to address that, and that is something that we’ve been doing in the last 60 days.”

In an interview after, the commissioner refused to answer questions about reports of problems, instead continually steering back to the budget.

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“Are you intentionally having staff not investigate transitional homes?” News 2 asked.

“No, but we’re here today to talk about the placement of children and the care of children and the great work some 4,000 DCS staff are doing across this state every day to serve vulnerable children,” Quin said.

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