Press Releases

TN Commission on Children, Youth Releases New ‘State of the Child’ Report

Press release from the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth; June 7, 2013:

Tennessee’s future depends on fostering the health and well-being of the next generation, including those children who are involved with the child welfare system. The latest edition of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth’s KIDS COUNT: The State of the Child in Tennessee focuses on the impact of child abuse and neglect and the importance of a supportive infrastructure to help vulnerable children develop successfully.

Some stress is inevitable in life, but a chronic stressful condition such as neglect or abuse is called “toxic stress” and can disrupt developing brain architecture, leading to lifelong difficulties in learning, memory and self-regulation. Abuse, neglect and separation from a parent present traumatic, toxic stress that can lead to a variety of social, emotional and behavioral problems.

Linda O’Neal, executive director of TCCY, said, “Tennessee is engaged in a variety of efforts to improve outcomes for vulnerable children. Many are built on collaborative efforts to bring together partners to provide the services and supports needed to help children and families, ensure safety for children, and nurture opportunities for healing, stability and permanence.”

The Department of Children’s Services is the primary agency in Tennessee with responsibility for responding to child maltreatment. The report includes information about important DCS supported efforts to improve outcomes for children:

  • Joint Task Force on Children’s Justice/Child Sexual Abuse;
  • In Home Tennessee, an initiative to improve services provided in homes;
  • Multi-Level Response System (MRS) Community Advisory Boards that marshal supportive services for families across Tennessee;
  • Centers of Excellence for services to children in state custody that support the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) assessment and service planning process and the Learning Collaborative focused on providing evidence-informed cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for children who have been abused or neglected.

The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth staffs three key groups that work to improve outcomes for vulnerable children:

  • The Second Look Commission brings together stakeholders in the child protection system to review cases of children who have experienced a second or subsequent incident of severe abuse and make recommendations for improving child safety.
  • The Council on Children’s Mental Health, co-chaired by with commissioner of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, brings together stakeholders to work toward implementation of a system of care for children’s mental health in Tennessee – youth and family-driven, culturally competent services provided in the least restrictive environment. Prevention and early intervention services and efforts to reduce the need for state custody have been major thrusts of the Council.
  • The Youth Transitions Advisory Council, a partnership with the Department of Children’s Services, includes youth leaving state custody and a broad group of those serving them to help shape policies and strengthen the infrastructure of services and supports they need to succeed as young adults who typically do not have nurturing families.

TCCY’s Ombudsman Program works to help resolve problems in the best interests of children in the custody of the Department of Children’s Services (DCS), in the relative caregiver program or involved with Child Protective Services (CPS) system.

O’Neal added, “Important private partners in the state’s child protection infrastructure include Child Advocacy Centers, CASA programs, Prevent Child Abuse and other social services, health and mental health programs across the state.”

KIDS COUNT: The State of the Child in Tennessee summarizes many of the conditions children face and highlights recommendations to assist them. The book also includes data compiled during the final year of Children’s Program Outcome Review Team (CPORT) reviews of randomly selected child custody cases. The program was eliminated in the 2012-13 state budget. Charts based on the data show, for example, more than a third of children in custody had one or more parents with a mental health diagnosis and more than half had a substance abuser as a parent.

The report, which is published annually, also lists county-by-county health, education, child welfare, demographic, economic and other data on Tennessee’s children. KIDS COUNT: The State of the Child 2012 is available on TCCY’s website at Interactive information in the book and child welfare information for all states is also available at

Press Releases

House GOP Goes After Drunks Driving with Kids in Vehicle

Press release from the House Republican Caucus; April 19, 2012:

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The House this week agreed to tough new restrictions against irresponsible conduct behind the wheel that may save the lives of children.

Generally, under present law, upon conviction of a first DUI offense, an offender is fined between $350 and $1,500. This individual is also prohibited from driving a vehicle in Tennessee for one year, given a sentence that can range from 48 hours to 11 months and 29 days of probation, and be ordered to remove litter during daylight hours from public roadways.

However, if at the time of the commission of the DUI, the person was accompanied by a child under 18 years of age, then the person must be punished by a mandatory minimum incarceration of 30 days and a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000.

House Bill 2751, by Representative Tony Shipley (R—Blountville), will increase those provisions of the law. Under his bill, a minimum incarceration of 30 days must be served consecutively with any sentence for convictions of DUI, vehicular assault, vehicular homicide, or aggravated vehicular homicide.

“As an emergency responder in my professional life, I see too many careless individuals willing to risk the life of others. That must be stopped. This bill increases penalty for that type of violation,” stated Shipley after passage of the legislation. “This bill is a personal priority of mine and I believe it will help save the lives of our most vulnerable citizens—our children.”

Representative Julia Hurley (R—Lenoir City) who supported the legislation and is anxious to see it become law added, “This bill needs to become law because even one additional life that is risked because of the carelessness of a drunk driver. This was a strong action by the General Assembly.”

To view a full summary of the legislation, please click here.

Press Releases

Comptroller: ‘Zero Tolerance’ Offenses In Schools Up This Decade

Press Release from the State Comptroller; April 20, 2010:

But There’s Been Improvement Since 2005, Report Finds

The number of “zero tolerance” offenses committed by Tennessee schoolchildren has increased this decade, although there’s been improvement in at least three of the last five academic years, according to a report released today by the state Comptroller’s Offices of Research and Education Accountability (OREA).

Zero tolerance offenses are those which warrant predetermined disciplinary actions, such as expulsion or assignment to alternative schools. Although individual school districts have added to their lists of zero tolerance offenses, those defined by state law are drug possession/use, firearms possession and battery against school staff members.

In its latest report, OREA compared data from the 2005-2006, 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 academic years to that collected since the 1999-2000 school year. Data from the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 school years will be evaluated in future reports.

Overall, the report indicates that zero tolerance offenses have increased since 1999-2000, although there has been a slight downward trend in the latest three years analyzed.

Drug offenses, which represent about 85 percent of the total zero tolerance cases, have risen significantly since 1999. Despite the recent downturn, the number of drug offenses has grown 45 percent overall since the beginning of the decade, outpacing student population growth.

Firearm offenses have shown a relatively steady decline in the years between 1999 and 2005, although in more recent years the year-to-year change in the statistics has been more erratic.

Battery of school staff members has also increased since 1999. However, the report notes that there is some variation in how different school districts classify those types of offenses.

Among the report’s other findings:

· Ninth graders made up the majority of zero tolerance offenders.

· Boys committed twice as many zero tolerance offenses as girls.

· In 2007-2008, the most recent year evaluated, 40 percent of all zero tolerance offenses were committed in the state’s five largest school districts.

“Our office has also created an online map of zero tolerance offenses to accompany this year’s report,” said Russell Moore, OREA’s assistant director. “The public can access the map through our website and scroll over any Tennessee school district to find out the number of reported zero tolerance offenses for the 2007-08 school year.”

The link to that map is available online at:

The full report, titled “Zero Tolerance: An Update, 2010,” is available online at:

OREA is an agency within the Comptroller’s Office that is charged with providing accurate and objective policy research and analysis for the Tennessee General Assembly and the public.

Press Releases

Tennessee OKs New Childhood Immunization Requirements

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Public Health, March 29, 2010:

Most Changes Go Into Effect July 1, 2010

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – For the first time in a decade, Tennessee has adopted new childhood immunization requirements to better protect children from serious diseases, especially those that can spread easily in a school or pre-school setting. The new 2010 requirements apply to those who attend child care, pre-school and school, and changes coming in 2011 affect new Tennessee college students. The state has also introduced a new official Tennessee Certificate of Immunization required for children starting pre-school, Kindergarten and seventh grade this fall.

“Vaccinations have all but eliminated the threat of diseases like mumps and measles. Unfortunately, we still see Tennessee children suffer and die unnecessarily when they are not properly immunized,” said Health Commissioner Susan R. Cooper, MSN, RN. “These new requirements assure that children have the best protection from serious illnesses that are easily passed from person to person in schools and child care centers.”

Parents and guardians planning to pre-register their children for school this spring will need to submit the new Certificate of Immunization by the time class starts in the fall. Because all new Kindergarten students and seventh graders will need the new certificate, public schools are allowing a one-time grace period of October 1 to submit the form, according to the state Department of Education. Check with your school for more information.

“The required vaccines are already recommended for all children by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics, so most young children have already received them,” said Kelly Moore, MD, medical director of the state immunization program. “Parents should talk with their child’s health care provider to be sure they have had everything they need. Unlike toddlers, who have frequent health exams, many pre-teens and teens are overdue for their annual health check-up, and are missing some of these important vaccines.”

A complete list of the new immunization requirements as well as information for parents and health care providers is available on the Tennessee Department of Health Web site at Examples of changes that will go into effect are as follows:

· Children enrolling in child care, pre-school or pre-Kindergarten must now show documentation of Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Pneumococcal vaccine.

· All children entering the seventh grade this fall must submit proof of a booster dose of the tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine; and confirm either chickenpox immunity through the disease or receipt of two doses of the varicella vaccine.

· In July 2011, new full-time enrollees to Tennessee colleges who were born after 1979 will need to provide proof of chickenpox immunity through either the disease or two doses of the varicella vaccine.

Children and teens younger than age 19 who have TennCare as well as those who do not have health insurance can receive free vaccines through the federal Vaccines for Children Program in participating private medical offices and health departments. Ask your child’s health care provider if they participate in VFC. If a child has insurance that does not pay for vaccines or if parents are unable to afford them, local health departments can provide the vaccine. Health departments and VFC providers give the vaccine for a small fee that can be adjusted based on your income.

Local health departments will be able to provide the new certificates beginning April 1; private providers will be able to obtain the new certificate beginning in April. Parents should talk to their child’s health care provider about plans for issuing the new certificates. Health care providers can go to for more information.

For general information about vaccines, visit For questions about school policies or health examinations, contact your local school system. For more information on the new requirements, call your county health department or go to the Web at

Press Releases

Gibbons Tours Youth Villages, Pledges To Reduce Juvenile Crime

Press Release from Bill Gibbons for Governor, March 22, 2010:

Bartlett, TN – Shelby County District Attorney General Bill Gibbons continues to make fighting crime a top priority, not only in his job at the D.A.’s office, but also as he gains momentum in his run for governor of Tennessee. General Gibbons today toured Youth Villages in Bartlett, a residential facility that offers mental health treatment for boys and girls.

“Most of the children who live at Youth Villages or participate in the programs are children who have also been part of the juvenile justice system. I wanted to see for myself how these treatment centers operate to better grasp the underlying problems of juvenile crime, and in turn, the best ways to fight it,” Gibbons said. “I was impressed with Youth Villages facilities and the staffs’ dedication to these troubled children,” he added.

While overall crime in many communities, including Shelby County, has gone down in recent years, juvenile crime remains a growing problem.

“Many of these children spend their whole lives shuffled through the juvenile justice system, rather than being in school and leading productive lives. As D.A., I’ve already cracked down on parents whose children are perpetually truant and helped match troubled children with caring mentors, but I think we have a long way to go. As governor, I want to move forward with new programs and ideas, instead of tying up kids in bureaucratic red tape,” Gibbons said.

Bill Gibbons, a Republican, is the Shelby County District Attorney General, serving as the top state law enforcement official in Tennessee’s largest jurisdiction. He entered the governor’s race on January 4, 2009. For more information on Bill Gibbons, visit his campaign website at

Press Releases

First Lady Conte Pays Visits In Support Of East Tennessee Child Advocacy Centers

State of Tennessee Press Release, March 18, 2010:

NASHVILLE – First Lady Andrea Conte visited several East Tennessee Child Advocacy Centers this week to increase awareness about the issue of child abuse and build support for the work of Child Advocacy Centers to help children who are victims of sexual and severe physical abuse.

First Lady Conte visited Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center in Sevierville on Wednesday, led a walk in Knoxville on Thursday morning to benefit ChildHelp USA Children’s Center of East Tennessee, and concluded her swing through East Tennessee with a visit to New Hope Blount County Child Advocacy Center in Maryville on Thursday afternoon.

“April will be National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and I think it’s particularly important to act now to raise awareness of this issue and to encourage communities to support the work of Child Advocacy Centers,” Conte said.

When she became First Lady of Tennessee, one of Conte’s priorities was to help establish a child advocacy center in each of the 31 judicial districts across the state. In 2003, there were 25 Child Advocacy Centers. Today there are 43 centers statewide.

Safe Harbor serves Cocke, Grainger, Jefferson and Sevier Counties. Conte visited the center in Sevierville to learn about Safe Harbor’s plans to expand with two new centers in Newport and Jefferson City. The Newport center in Cocke County is expected to open on a part-time basis by the fist of May. The Jefferson City center in Jefferson County is expected to open by mid-summer.

In Knoxville, Conte kicked off a series of 12 AndreaWalks events that will be held in March, April and May to educate families about the issue of child abuse in Tennessee and the availability of services for victims. The walk to support ChildHelp USA is the first event in this year’s AndreaWalks series. Conte launched the AndreaWalks initiative in 2004, walking more than 600 miles from Memphis to Bristol and raising approximately $1.4 million in cash and in-kind donations for Child Advocacy Centers across the state.

At New Hope in Maryville, the First Lady met with staff and board members who presented the “Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth Small Print Media Award” to Blount Today for its ongoing coverage of children’s issues. The First Lady was also briefed about an awareness event New Hope is planning in November to be held in conjunction with the World Day for Prevention of Child Abuse.

“There are a lot of good things going on in East Tennessee and it has been wonderful to see the good work that’s being done by Safe Harbor, ChildHelp USA and New Hope to serve children who are the victims of abuse,” said Conte.

To learn more about the work of Child Advocacy Centers to keep children safe, visit

Press Releases

Gubernatorial Candidate Forum Scheduled for Children’s Advocacy Days: March 9-10

Press Release from the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, 1 March 2010:

Candidates to lead Tennessee will share their plans to care for its future – its children – Wednesday, March 10, in a forum at Children’s Advocacy Days.

The Children’s Advocacy forum is part of a two-day event focusing ?attention on issues affecting children and providing citizens information for policy advocacy for children. Sponsored by the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth and its regional councils, the free ?event will be at War Memorial Auditorium March 9-10.

Nashville journalism legend and founder of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University John Seigenthaler will moderate the 10 a.m. forum. Shelby County District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, former state House Democratic Leader Kim ?McMillan, Jackson businessman Mike McWherter, Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey and Congressman Zach Wamp have confirmed participation in the forum. News Channel 5, the Nashville CBS affiliate will broadcast the forum at times to be announced prior to the election and make it available to other CBS affiliates across the state.

Children’s Advocacy Days, in its 22nd year, will also feature presentations on critical services on Tuesday, March 9. The Making KIDS COUNT Media, Youth Excellence and the Jim Pryor Child Advocacy awards will be announced on the event’s first day.

Bill Bentley, president of Voices for America’s Children’s, will kick off Wednesday’s events, which also include a presentation by Education Commissioner Tim Webb on Tennessee’s Race to the Top.

In keeping with the election year activities, the theme of 2010 Children’s Advocacy Days will be a political picnic, with everything but the ants – opportunities for participants to meet their legislative ?representatives, plan to work together and celebrate their hard work and vision for Tennessee’s children.

The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth is an independent agency created by the Tennessee General Assembly. Its ?primary mission is to advocate for improvements in the quality of life for Tennessee children and families. For more information contact TCCY at (615) 741-2633 or visit the agency website at Online registration (at ends midnight Thursday, March 4. Onsite registration begins at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Additional information on the event is available at

Press Releases

First Lady Andrea Conte to Lead Walks for Child Advocacy Centers

Press Release from the Gov. Phil Bredesen administration, March 1, 2010:

13 Walks Scheduled for Months of March, April and May

NASHVILLE – Tennessee First Lady Andrea Conte has announced the dates for 13 AndreaWalks events in the months of March, April and May. Conte, a longtime advocate for victims’ rights issues, launched the AndreaWalks initiative in 2004 to promote National Child Abuse Prevention Month and provide support for Tennessee’s Child Advocacy Centers.

“Child Advocacy Centers provide comprehensive support programs for children who are the victims of sexual or severe physical abuse and their families,” Conte said. “These organizations work diligently every day on behalf of children, and these walks are something we can do to raise awareness and increase support for our Child Advocacy Centers across Tennessee.”

Conte made promoting and providing support for the Tennessee Child Advocacy Centers a priority when she became First Lady in 2003. One goal was to help establish a Child Advocacy Center in each of the 31 judicial districts across the state. In 2003, there were 25 Child Advocacy Centers in Tennessee. Today, there are 42 centers statewide.

Tennessee’s First Lady has worked to serve victims of crime and abuse for more than 17 years. In 1993, she founded You Have the Power…Know How to Use It, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about crime and justice issues. In 2008, Conte received national recognition for her outstanding service to crime victims when she received the National Crime Victim Service Award from U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey in a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

In the inaugural year of AndreaWalks, First Lady Conte walked more than 600 miles from Memphis to Bristol and raised approximately $1.4 million in cash and in-kind donations for these organizations.

This year there will be 13 AndreaWalks events held in March, April and May in Knox, Wilson, Putnam, Davidson, Cannon, Rutherford, Sullivan, Anderson, Scott, Sumner, Robertson, Lincoln and Fentress counties. Interested participants in these locations may contact their local Child Advocacy Center for more information or to register.

To learn more about the work of Child Advocacy Centers, visit

Knoxville – Knox County

Thursday, March 18

To benefit the ChildHelp USA Children’s Center of East Tennessee

9:00 A.M. EDT

For additional information, call (865) 637-1753

Lebanon – Wilson County

Friday, April 9

To benefit the 15th Judicial District Child Advocacy Center

9:00 a.m. CDT

For additional information, call (615) 449-7975

Cookeville – Putnam County

Friday, April 9

To benefit the Upper Cumberland Child Advocacy Center

1:30 p.m. CDT

For additional information, call (931) 525-1080

Nashville – Davidson County

Saturday, April 10

To benefit the Nashville Children’s Alliance

9:00 a.m. CDT

For additional information, call (615) 327-9958

Woodbury – Cannon County

Friday, April 16

To benefit the Child Advocacy Center of Cannon County

9:00 a.m. CDT

For additional information, call (615) 867-9000

Murfreesboro – Rutherford County

Friday, April 16

To benefit the Child Advocacy Center of Rutherford County

12:30 p.m. CDT

For additional information, call (615) 867-9000

Blountville – Sullivan County

Saturday, April 17

To benefit the Child Advocacy Center of Sullivan County

9:00 a.m. EDT

For additional information, call (423) 279-1222

Clinton – Anderson County

Thursday, April 22

To benefit the Clinch Valley Children’s Center

12:00 p.m. EDT

For additional information, call (865) 463-2740

Oneida – Scott County

Friday, April 23

To benefit the Children’s Center of the Cumberlands

9:00 a.m. EDT

For additional information, call (423) 569-8900

Gallatin – Sumner County

Tuesday, April 27

To benefit Ashley’s Place

10:00 a.m. CDT

For additional information, call (615) 451-2169

Springfield – Robertson County

Tuesday, April 27

To benefit the Robertson County Child Advocacy Center

1:30 p.m. CDT

For additional information, call (615) 384-5885

Fayetteville – Lincoln County

Thursday, April 29

To benefit Junior’s House

10:00 a.m. CDT

For additional information, call (931) 438-3233

Jamestown – Fentress County

Saturday, May 1

To benefit the Fentress County Children’s Center

9:00 a.m. CDT

For additional information, call (931) 879-7290

Press Releases

Sen. Jackson Wants Tougher Penalties for Crimes Against Women, Kids

Press Release from Sen. Doug Jackson, D-Dickson, 23 Feb. 2010:

Bill would make murderers of pregnant women eligible for death penalty

NASHVILLE – Sen. Doug Jackson (D-Dickson) will present two bills in a Senate committee Tuesday afternoon that enforce harsher penalties for crimes committed against pregnant women and young children.

“We have a duty to protect those who are vulnerable, and pregnant women and children are the ultimate examples,” Jackson said. “Criminals who commit heinous acts against these groups deserve punishments that fit the crimes.”

Under Senate Bill 2392, a killer convicted of first-degree murder for knowingly killing a pregnant woman automatically would become eligible for the death penalty or life without parole. The bill will give a jury the opportunity to impose an appropriate punishment against a murderer of a pregnant woman, thereby assuring justice for society and the victim’s family.

“A premeditated murder against a pregnant woman is repugnant to society,” Jackson said. “The tragic loss of a mother-to-be is particularly shocking and harmful to a family. The family loses much more than a wife and a mother.”

Senate Bill 2388 requires convicted child rapists who complete their prison sentences to be supervised by an officer of the state of Tennessee for the rest of their lives.

During his time in the legislature, Sen. Jackson has sponsored bills that made the sex offender registry public and accessible via the Internet, as well as the legislation that required state lifetime supervision of sex offenders. Child rapists would be added to that list under SB2388.

“I have led the charge against sex offenders in Tennessee,” Jackson said. “Child rapists should serve long sentences without parole, and once they have completed every day of their sentences, they should never be released back into our communities without active supervision by a state officer.”

Both bills are scheduled to be discussed during the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting at 3 p.m. Tuesday in LP12.

Senator Doug Jackson represents Dickson, Giles, Hickman, Humphreys, Lawrence, and Lewis Counties. Contact him at or (615) 741-4499 or 302 War Memorial Building, Nashville, TN 37243-0025.

Press Releases

AccessTN Expands Eligibility to Include Children

State of Tennessee Press Release: Dec 03, 2009

NASHVILLE – The AccessTN board of directors today approved a new policy to allow uninsurable children with chronic and acute medical conditions to enroll in the state-administered health insurance plan. The change will take effect immediately.

As Tennessee’s high risk health insurance plan, AccessTN has provided comprehensive coverage since 2007 for adults who have been denied insurance coverage due to pre-existing health conditions. Until recently, CoverKids had provided coverage to children in similar situations, but suspended new enrollment in November 2009 due to budget limitations.

“With enrollment for new members in CoverKids closed, uninsured children with chronic conditions have fewer options for coverage,” said David Hilley, director of AccessTN. “The AccessTN board voted to expand the program to include children to ensure viable options remain for families with sick children.”

With a current enrollment of more than 3,800 members, each of whom pays a monthly premium for coverage, AccessTN provides comprehensive health insurance to individuals younger than 19, while still managing within its set budget.

Premiums for children will be based on the lowest premium level charged to AccessTN enrollees and will range from $284 to $410 per month. Premium assistance is an option for some families earning less than $75,000. This aid can cover up to 60 percent of the monthly premium, depending on family income, and is subject to available funding.

“Prior to the CoverKids enrollment suspension, families with uninsurable children could buy into that program by paying monthly premiums because they exceeded the income limits to qualify for free coverage,” Hilley added. “Now that enrollment for CoverKids has closed, this keeps a buy-in option open for those families who still need coverage for their children.”

To qualify for AccessTN, an individual must be a Tennessee resident, U.S. citizen or qualified legal alien and be considered uninsurable due to pre-existing health conditions. In addition, applicants must be uninsured for at least three months, though special exclusions apply for those finishing COBRA or TennCare policies, or for those whose employer has cancelled group coverage.

AccessTN is a program of Cover Tennessee, Governor Phil Bredesen’s initiative to address the health care needs of Tennessee’s uninsured. Cover Tennessee offers three other programs, including CoverTN, a limited benefit health plan for the working uninsured. CoverKids provides free comprehensive health insurance for qualifying children 18-years-old and younger. CoverRx provides Tennesseans who lack pharmacy benefits with access to affordable prescriptions.

New enrollment in CoverKids suspended Dec. 1, 2009. The last day to pre-qualify for CoverTN was Nov. 30. Any businesses or individuals who prequalified for coverage have until Dec. 31, 2009, to enroll with BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. Both programs are temporarily closing enrollment as a result of limits in the state budget.