U.S. District Court Judge Todd J. Campbell has approved a modified settlement agreement in the Brian A. v. Bill Halsam case, moving the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) into maintenance in four additional areas. The improvement recommendations were made by the Technical Assistance Committee, an independent committee created by the court, and affirmed by Judge Campbell at a status hearing today.
“We are pleased with the progress the department has made in improving the care and services we provide to Tennessee’s children, and toward achieving the improvements set forth in the Brian A. settlement agreement,” said DCS Commissioner Kathryn O’Day. “The department will continue its pursuit of a timely and successful exit from the Brian A. lawsuit.”
The Brian A. case is a civil rights class action lawsuit that was brought in May 2000 on behalf of children in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS). The state entered into a Settlement Agreement and Exit Plan in August 2001.
The Modified Settlement Agreement and Exit Plan requires improvements in the operations of the Department of Children’s Services, establishes the outcomes to be achieved by the State of Tennessee on behalf of children in custody and their families, and provides for termination of court jurisdiction after the Department meets and maintains compliance with the provisions of the settlement agreement for a 12-month period.
The designation “in maintenance” signifies that the department is complying with a specific provision of the settlement agreement and exit plan. The four new areas in which the department has reached compliance pertain to the use of job perfromance evaluations in promotion and disciplinary action decisions; responding to inquiries from prospective resource (foster) families within seven days; conducting exit interviews and an annual report on resource families that voluntarily resign; and using existing resource families to recruit and retain new families.
DCS has sustained its performance in areas where it already was compliant, including on standards related to reducing the amount of time children stay in state custody, increasing the number of children in kinship homes, and the timely reunification of children with their birth families, officials said.