By Anita Wadhwani, The Tennessean
The Department of Children's Services has conducted no
investigations into the deaths of eight children for whom it had some
oversight in recent years and will produce no records documenting DCS'
interaction with those children, according to a recent court filing.
has been under court order to produce records for 50 children who died
in the months leading up to July 1, 2012, as part of a lawsuit brought
by The Tennessean and a coalition of the state's media organizations.
last week, the agency said it could produce only 42 of the 50 records
Davidson County Chancellor Carol McCoy ordered DCS to submit for her
review by May 3. McCoy has said she would review the 50 records before
releasing them to the media Friday.
"There were 8 case files in
which no referral concerning the death of the child was made to the
Department of Children's Services and, therefore, the Department did not
conduct any sort of investigation as to these deaths," the DCS' court
It is unknown why DCS cannot produce any of the
required records for eight children whose deaths are known to DCS or why
the agency conducted no investigation into those deaths.
spokeswoman Molly Sudderth declined to answer any questions about why
the records were unavailable, citing the ongoing litigation. Sudderth
referred inquires about the missing records to the state attorney
general's office. A spokeswoman for the attorney general said she could
provide no answers because the lawyer on the case was out of town.
Harvey, an attorney representing The Tennessean and its attempts to
gain access to DCS records, said Wednesday he was awaiting an
explanation in court.
"The state is under a court order to produce
records regarding recent fatalities and near fatalities of children and
infants," said Harvey, an attorney with Waller Lansden Dortch &
"In its latest court filing, the state says that it has
eight recent files regarding children's deaths, but conducted no
investigation about any of those deaths and has none of the basic forms
the media coalition is requesting - not even the notice of child
fatality form or the intake summary form. We will look forward to the
state's explanation to the Court about these files.''
records McCoy ordered produced were for children who were either in DCS
custody, who had an open case file at the time of their deaths or near
deaths, or whose investigations DCS had closed within three years of
their deaths or near deaths.
One specific record the judge ordered
DCS to produce is a "Notice of Fatality/Near Fatality," which the
agency is required to complete for any child once the agency has learned
of his or her death. DCS policy requires the agency to complete the
form for any child who falls into the three categories requested by
media groups and who was subject to a Child Protective Services
investigation within three years of their deaths or near deaths.
unknown whether the eight children with missing records were subject to
another type of DCS investigation that required no such reporting.