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Gov. Haslam: DCS Commissioner Katie O'Day resigns

2:13 PM, Feb 5, 2013   |    comments
DCS Commissioner Kate O’Day, pictured, resigns from her position.
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Gov. Bill Haslam announced Tuesday that Department of Children's Services Commissioner Kate O'Day has resigned from her position.

O'Day's resignation comes amid scrutiny over how her agency handles cases of children who died after abuse and neglect investigations. WBIR-TV, The Tennessean, The Associated Press and nine other news organizations have sued DCS in order to obtain case records of 150 children who died after the state launched abuse of neglect investigations.

O'Day joined the Haslam administration in January 2011. Prior to running DCS, she was president and CEO of Child & Family Tennessee in Knoxville. Gov. Haslam said O'Day believed it was the appropriate time to step down.

"She was concerned that she had become more of a focus than the children the department serves," Haslam said in a statement. "I appreciate Kate's service to this administration and to our state. She has done a lot of good work in identifying long-standing problems that have hampered the department, and we will build on those efforts as we move forward."

The governor has named Commissioner Jim Henry to serve as interim commissioner of DCS. Henry currently runs the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Haslam said Henry experience qualifies him for this role.

"He has significant experience both in the private and public sectors and has devoted the better part of his life to caring for some of our most vulnerable citizens," Haslam said.

Henry will continue to serve as commissioner of DIDD during his interim role of leading DCS. According to a release, Haslam said he will immediately begin searching for a new DCS commissioner.

Initially in the fall of 2012, Department of Children's Services said 151 children involved with the agency died between 2008 and mid-2012. It was discovered, however, that more children died within that time frame.

The governor announced on Jan. 24 that DCS had nine child deaths unaccounted for between 2011 and 2012, which raised the number of custodial deaths to 25 in the past two years. After this revelation, Haslam appointed a senior advisor to look into DCS operations.

A federal judge also ordered DCS to hand over its child death records to a watchdog group on Jan. 27. He also said DCS must overhaul the child fatality review process within 90 days. The judge said time is running out for the department to fix its record system.

DCS said Monday it would cost $55,584 to turn over records of children who've died after having some interaction with the agency. The judge ordered DCS to provide copies of the files of more than 200 children who died or nearly died since 2009 after having some contact with the $650 million child protective agency.

DCS is currently in the process of getting out from under a consent order, which requires a third party to monitor its operations. This third party discovered the additional unreported deaths.

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