NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Earlier this month, WKRN reported children were sleeping in Department of Children’s Services (DCS) offices because of the lack of space, money and workers.
“Right now, I’m getting calls of desperation,” Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) said.
Johnson, who’s running for re-election in November, said she’s spoken with DCS workers about the state they’re in. “They tell me that they are being forced to sit in state offices with children who are sleeping there in those offices.”
Sen. Heidi Campbell (D-Nashville), who’s running for a U.S. House seat in November, joined Johnson on Tuesday, growing emotional when she talked about the subject.
“This is really sad that children are not being taken care of in our state,” Campbell said with tears in her eyes. “Our most vulnerable children, obviously, don’t deserve this.”
Campbell also touched on the numbers in her own county. “Davidson County has only 11 out of 63 positions—11 out of 63 positions—filled at Child Protective Services.”
So what’s it going to take to fill those jobs? It’s a complex question, but more money is a likely start.
In Tennessee, most entry-level DCS jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree and start out at around $31,000 per year.
“We have the money to do this,” Johnson said. “Sure, you’re going to have to raise salaries. You’re going to have to hire folks.”
For comparison, in Tennessee, most shift manager positions at Taco Bell run from $13 to $16 per hour. That’s about $27,000 to $33,000 per year.
Johnson also talked about how these children come from trauma—that’s why they’re in the care of DCS. Current conditions only exasperate that trauma.
“You can’t meet those childs’ [sic] needs, there’s no way we can avoid increased trauma when these kids are sleeping in offices,” she said. “The workers say there are no beds, there are no showers, there are no supplies, except for what they buy with their own money.”
News 2 reached out to both Johnson’s and Campbell’s opponents—Andy Ogles for Campbell and David Pozy for Johnson—to ask if they had any comment or ideas to combat the issues DCS is facing.
“The issue in question is a State and local issue, not a federal issue. All too often the federal government inserts itself in areas beyond its jurisdiction and the result is present day America with runaway inflation, a failing economy and increased crime across the country.”Andy Ogles
Pozy has yet to respond.