Interim Chief of the Department of Children's Services, Jim Henry/The Tennessean
The Department of Children's Services' glitchy computer system has improved significantly, Commissioner Jim Henry wrote in an emailed progress report on Friday.
All major problems have been fixed and a list of 1,700 defects identified a year ago have been whittled down to 383 minor ones that remain, he said.
Henry took over the state's $650 million child welfare agency nearly one month ago after former chief Kate O'Day resigned. O'Day's departure came as a series of controversies emerged at the agency, including its inability to accurately account for the deaths of children in its care.
Under O'Day, the department's computer system - known as TFACTS - also failed to generate routine payments to foster parents and contractors and was unable to produce accurate data on children required by outside agencies, watchdog groups and independent overseers.
After a review of agency data, which he ordered, Henry said Friday that he could now confirm that 14 children died in DCS custody in 2011 and 11 more died in 2012.
Henry said he hopes to be able to report "in the near future" on the larger group of Tennessee children who died after having some interaction with DCS social workers but were not taken into custody. DCS previously reported that at least 73 children in either of those categories had died in 2012, but the agency has declined to verify or update those numbers until it has completed an internal review of its data systems.
The $27 million TFACTS system was installed by O'Day's predecessor, but its most serious problems emerged under her tenure. O'Day announced in October that fixing the system would cost $3.96 million, and the fixes would be completed by June. Agency spokeswoman Molly Sudderth said Friday the computer system would be fully repaired by the end of the year.
Agency officials had on at least four occasions since September released incorrect numbers on the deaths of children in their care. The data problems earned the wrath of Judge Todd Campbell in January. The Nashville U.S. District Court judge pointedly suggested to DCS attorneys that the agency should compare its files to obituaries to pin down the names of deceased children.
Campbell ordered DCS to report back in April.
Henry said he would provide more updates on the computer system next week.