Almost three years and millions of dollars in fixes later, the
state's computer system to track abused and neglected children may
finally be up to snuff.
Federal monitors charged with ensuring the
Tennessee Department of Children's Services is protecting the state's
most vulnerable kids filed a new report this week detailing the agency's
progress in fixing its computer system. That $27 million system, called
the Tennessee Family and Child Tracking System, or TFACTS, has been
plagued by problems from its inception in August 2010. But it is finally
in good enough shape to inform federal oversight of the state's child
"It was quite clear that the rollout of TFACTS was
essentially failing," said Ira Lustbader, attorney for Children's
Rights, a New York group that has had oversight of DCS since it won a
federal lawsuit in 2000. "They've made a big step forward here."
DCS Commissioner Jim Henry said the agency was pleased with the new report.
improvements we continue to make to the system are generating positive
results," he said. "We have dramatically reduced the number of defects
from more than 1,700 to 382, but we still have a long way to go to get
TFACTS where we want it to be functionally."
System still flawed
TFACTS was set up to handle the bulk of casework in DCS, from initial
suspicions of abuse or neglect all the way through foster families and
adoptions. But it has been blamed for countless problems, ranging from
failing to pay foster parents to being unable to produce reports about
children who have died while in agency custody. DCS caseworkers have
complained it is difficult to navigate, slow to respond and that simple
tasks simply take too long to complete.
In the fall, Children's
Rights complained in federal court that TFACTS had reached a "crisis"
and was wholly unable to provide sufficient data to determine whether
the state's children were being properly protected. But the latest
report indicates DCS has fixed thousands of defects and added new
capabilities to TFACTS, rendering it far more usable.
still has flaws, according to the report. Half of caseworkers complained
of being kicked out of the system at some point, and only slightly
fewer said it was still too slow.
"One (caseworker) said, simply enough, 'I hate TFACTS,' " the report added in a footnote.
Still, monitors say, the improvements will make a difference.
Lustbader also said there has been a dramatic improvement in relations
since former DCS Commissioner Kate O'Day resigned in February. Henry,
who has continued to head the state's Department of Intellectual and
Developmental Disabilities, and Larry Martin, a longtime aide to Gov.
Bill Haslam, were sent to DCS to start resolving the agency's problems.
forward, I think there are signs of encouragement here and signs that
we might be moving on a much better path," Lustbader said.