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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 www.tn.gov/tccy/kc-soc12.pdf. Interactive information in the book and child welfare information for all states is also available at http://datacenter.kidscount.org.

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Press Releases

Beavers Touts Cold Medicine Purchasing Database Following Comptroller’s Meth Report

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; January 10, 2013:

(NASHVILLE, TN), January 10, 2013 — Tennessee State Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) today responded to a report issued by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury on methamphetamine production in Tennessee. The study, which was carried out by the Offices of Research and Education Accountability, analyzed the effectiveness of Tennessee’s real-time, stop-sale technology—known as the National Precursor Log Exchange—at addressing domestic methamphetamine production in Tennessee and other states where the system is operational.

Senator Beavers was the original Senate sponsor of anti-meth legislation that implemented NPLEx in Tennessee in addition to a drug-offender registry and strict penalties for meth-related crime. The system, which allows retailers to block unlawful attempted purchases of certain cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine (PSE), has been fully operational in Tennessee since January 2012. In a little over one year since implementation, the technology has led to tens of thousands of blocked sales and numerous convictions and arrests.

“I’m pleased with the progress made in NPLEx’s first year implemented in Tennessee. This system provides law enforcement with an invaluable intelligence-gathering tool, helping officers make more meth busts and arrests,” said Senator Beavers. “Reports that more meth labs are being found in our state provides proof that NPLEx is doing exactly what it is designed to do.”

As the comptroller’s report accurately notes, NPLEx is leading law enforcement officials to uncover a greater number of meth labs. Before the system was in place, police officers were blind to suspicious PSE purchasing activity. If they wanted to track purchases, officers would literally have to sift through handwritten logbooks and drive from store to store. Now, the purchasing database is completely electronic and updates in real time. Officers can receive alerts on their mobile phones and put suspects on a watch list that sends out alerts when a suspect attempts to make a purchase.

“As my colleagues in the Tennessee House and Senate debate anti-meth legislation during the 2013 session, I urge them to continue to let this new law work. I have no doubt that we will continue making progress against the scourge of meth production and abuse utilizing the NPLEx system,” Beavers concluded.

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Report: Tennessee Business Tax Friendliness Ranking Drops

Tennessee politicians often boast that the state has one of the friendliest businesses climates in the country, but a recent report indicates the state sits squarely in the middle of the pack compared to other states.

In fact, Tennessee’s ranking fell five slots to 27 out of 50 states in this year’s State Business Tax Climate Index released this month by the Tax Foundation, a research group based in Washington, D.C.

Last year, Tennessee was slotted at 22 among states measured for its tax friendliness. From 2006 to 2009, the state’s rank had hovered around the high teens and low twenties.

In this year’s report, the Volunteer State scored well for lacking an income tax but poorly when compared on its high sales tax and unemployment insurance rate.

Among the most business tax friendly states were South Dakota, Alaska, Wyoming, Nevada, Florida, Montana, New Hampshire, Delaware, Utah and Indiana, according to the report.

The worst included North Carolina, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Maryland, Iowa, Ohio, Connecticut, New Jersey, California and New York.

The report indicates that tax incentives and subsidies offered by state governments are usually indications that officials are trying to make up for a “woeful business tax climate.” They do better to consider long-term business tax reform, according to the report.

Image courtesy of The Tax Foundation 2011 State Business Tax Climate Index.

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Press Releases

Former School Food Service Supervisor Indicted Following Comptroller Investigation

Press Release from the Tennessee Comptroller; April 30, 2010:

The former supervisor for the Fayette County Schools food service department and two others have been indicted on theft charges following an investigation by the state Comptroller’s Division of County Audit with the assistance of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Inappropriate transactions involving the trio resulted in a theft of more than $177,000 from the Fayette County School Department, the investigation found.

The investigation revealed that Anita Joyce Owen, the former food service supervisor, had made numerous unauthorized payments for pest control services to Arnett Montague Sr. These transactions included double-billing and payments for services not performed. There were also indications she had received kickbacks from Montague, who wasn’t properly licensed to provide pest control services when most of the payments were made.

In addition, Owen made improper payments to a part-time cafeteria employee by altering timesheets. Owen added hours to the timesheets of cafeteria worker Jerlene Jones that Jones had not worked, resulting in improper payments of thousands of dollars. There was also evidence Owen received kickbacks from Jones.

The Fayette County Grand Jury returned indictments against Owen, Montague and Jones on March 22. Owen faces one count of theft over $60,000; two counts of theft between $10,000 and $60,000 and one count of official misconduct. Montague faces one count of theft over $60,000; one count of impersonation of a licensed professional; one count of pest control activities without a license and one count of violation of a business charter requirement. Jones faces two counts of theft between $10,000 and $60,000.

Two days after the indictments were issued, Owen resigned from her job.

“I’m pleased that our investigation has put a stop to the misappropriation of public funds,” County Audit Director Jim Arnette said. “I hope this case will serve as a reminder to others who work in positions of public trust that they should not abuse that trust. If they do, our auditors are committed to finding them.”

“Theft of taxpayer dollars is obviously unacceptable under any circumstances,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “This case is particularly troublesome because the three defendants allegedly stole money from the school system’s central cafeteria fund. This fund includes federal dollars that are used to provide breakfasts and lunches to low-income children. I applaud the work of the Division of County Audit and the TBI for bringing this situation to light.”

To read the full report, go to: http://www.comptroller1.state.tn.us/repository/CA/2009/Special Report Fayette Co Food.pdf

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Press Releases

Report: Adolescent Literacy Skills Lacking

Press Release from the Comptroller of the Treasury, March 30, 2010:

Many middle and high school students across Tennessee are struggling with serious reading deficiencies, according to a report released today by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury’s Offices of Research and Education Accountability (OREA).

The report provides an overview of adolescent literacy statewide and nationally, discusses how states can effectively address the needs of struggling readers (particularly students in middle and high school grades) and profiles recent actions the Tennessee Department of Education and the State Board of Education have taken to improve adolescent literacy.

Nationally, more than two-thirds of the nation’s 8th graders and more than half of 12th graders read below the proficient levels for those grades as determined by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). More than a quarter cannot read at the most basic level.

Tennessee’s NAEP scores are similar to the national scores, with more than 70 percent of 8th grade students reading at the basic and below basic levels.

About 65 percent of Tennessee schools don’t offer reading classes after the third grade. However, the study indicates reading instruction needs to be woven into all types of classes, even at higher grade levels.

The research shows that to develop good literacy skills, adolescents need explicit vocabulary instruction, direct and explicit comprehension strategy instruction and intensive interventions for those students with the most severe reading deficiencies.

In general, middle and high school teachers receive little training in reading instruction. In the upper grades in particular, teachers are focused on the subject matter of the courses they teach and may assume that students have all the reading skills they need. National education policy experts say that states should declare adolescent literacy an immediate priority and, most importantly, invest in improving teachers’ abilities to help developing readers.

The Tennessee Department of Education has declared a renewed focus on reading. In 2009, the Department created the Office of Reading Information and Proficiency and coordinated two reading summits.

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.

The legislative brief, titled “Tennessee’s Efforts to Address Literacy for Adolescent Learners,” may be viewed at:

http://www.comptroller1.state.tn.us/Repository/RE/AdolescentLiteracy.pdf