DCS makes 'wish list'   

By Jennifer Lassiter
star staff

  Community members along with city and county officials spoke out in an effort to improve child and family services by providing more training and better communication during a forum hosted by the Department of Child Services (DCS) Tuesday morning.
  County Mayor Dale Fair attended the meeting to become better educated on how schools, law enforcement and the county's Health Department can help in child and family services. "We need to keep everyone aware of the risks by keeping our eyes and ears open," Fair said.
   DCS held the first of several community forums in the region at First Christian Church in Elizabethton. The information collected will be combined with feedback from across the state that will be used to determine how the department can better provide services to children and families in Tennessee.
  "Today we hope to address two questions: What can the department do differently to improve Carter County and what can Carter County do as a community to help children and families," said Sherri Hale, interim regional administrator for DCS.
  Anthony Buck, a domestic violence investigator for the Elizabethton Police Department said, " Kids are going right back into the homes; that's what needs to happen, but they need family support in the home."
  Buck added that meth labs are prevalent now, and staff members need to be better educated about them. He also said there is a need for more unannounced visits from DCS staff.
  Sam Rutherford, team coordinator for Child Protection Services (CPS), agreed that meth labs are a hot topic and more investigators need to be assigned to those cases. Establishing better communication between police departments and CPS would also help the situation, Rutherford said.
  In Carter County, according to DCS statistics, 79 children are in custody in Carter County and only 45 of those children are in foster homes.
  Hale said, "We need to make that number higher; we could do so much more as a community."
  Hale also said that the foster care provider community needs to renew efforts to promote the need for foster parents and combine those efforts with the community.
  Diane Wise with the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth said, "Changes need to be made at home, and providers need to set up a unit to do parent training."
  The forum, according to Hale, was a way for staff members to gain input from the community. Their next step will be to sort through the topics discussed and incorporate topics of concern in the field.