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It is my pleasure to introduce you to Michelle Hendricks and her family, newly created by foster care and adoption. Their Forever Day was July 29.
Their story was captured by Nancy Rhoda, a veteran photojournalist who volunteers her time to DCS to tell the stories of the many families and children we work with — great stories of love and triumph not often seen by the public. 
A thank you to Michelle for allowing us to share their story and to Nancy for the storytelling. 
Read the story on TNDCS.org.

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Michelle Hendricks and her family, newly created by foster care and adoption. Their Forever Day was July 29.

Their story was captured by Nancy Rhoda, a veteran photojournalist who volunteers her time to DCS to tell the stories of the many families and children we work with — great stories of love and triumph not often seen by the public. 

A thank you to Michelle for allowing us to share their story and to Nancy for the storytelling. 

Read the story on TNDCS.org.

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I, along with some of my senior staff, traveled to St. Louis, Mo. earlier this week to visit with our counterparts at the Missouri Division of Youth Services.  We studied Missouri’s Juvenile Justice model, one that is nationally recognized as a successful model for getting kids’ lives on track.

We made a special visit to the Hogan Street Regional Youth Center, which is Missouri’s most secure facility. Missouri uses various programs from the moment a youth comes into care and carries throughout the time the youth is at the facility.  Missouri’s therapeutic approach is advanced and developed.

I am always open to looking at other models to find ways we can improve our systems here in Tennessee.  

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 Here’s a great note from Ginger Harris, who works in our Independent Living division.
The Davidson County Youth Board – tasked to promote youth voice in the foster care system — had its second gathering this week at the new Youth Connections offices in downtown Nashville, with 11 young adults attending – up from 8 youth at the August meeting.
We had great presenters and the youth seemed to be very passionate and enthusiastic about discussing issues that impact their future. 

Davidson County is very excited about the potential these young people possess. They have an amazing amount of resiliency and we are thrilled to see the impact that this board will have on their lives and other youth in foster care.

This board wouldn’t be possible without the passion and commitment from our Grand Middle Independent Living Staff and Davidson County Extension of Foster Care Staff.  
 The staff also will create a statewide leadership board to empower and encourage youth to participate in discussions regarding policy development and offer youth a chance to voice their concerns, issues and success stories. This board will provide youth with a fun and safe environment to openly share stories, concerns and experiences with their peers.

 

 Here’s a great note from Ginger Harris, who works in our Independent Living division.

The Davidson County Youth Board – tasked to promote youth voice in the foster care system — had its second gathering this week at the new Youth Connections offices in downtown Nashville, with 11 young adults attending – up from 8 youth at the August meeting.

We had great presenters and the youth seemed to be very passionate and enthusiastic about discussing issues that impact their future.

Davidson County is very excited about the potential these young people possess. They have an amazing amount of resiliency and we are thrilled to see the impact that this board will have on their lives and other youth in foster care.

This board wouldn’t be possible without the passion and commitment from our Grand Middle Independent Living Staff and Davidson County Extension of Foster Care Staff.  

 The staff also will create a statewide leadership board to empower and encourage youth to participate in discussions regarding policy development and offer youth a chance to voice their concerns, issues and success stories. This board will provide youth with a fun and safe environment to openly share stories, concerns and experiences with their peers.

 

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Shelby Deputy Regional Administrator Kerelynn Davis spoke at a very special Memphis luncheon Monday called BOLD CHURCH: How the local church can engage Foster Care & Adoption.

Almost 200 people, representing 43 congregations, heard from Kerelynn and Mark Ottinger, a pastor with Fellowship Memphis and himself an adoptive father.

Mark, pictured above, is working in Memphis to encourage congregations to foster and adopt children, reminding the gathering that there are 47 Shelby County children free for adoption and many more children who need loving foster homes. As of August 31, there were 867 children in custody in Shelby County.

"Those are not the state’s kids," Ottinger said. "Those are our kids."

His church’s ministry is called 1.17.

 

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Happy Adoption Day to Amir and his family. On Monday, Amir Huff was adopted in Sevier County.

Best wishes and special thanks to the staff who worked with this family.

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On September 19, 2014 the Upper Cumberland DCS and the Crossville Housing Authority participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for the Harper Apartments. This iniitiative will provide supportive housing for Extended Foster Care youth. This project started as part of our Youth Circle which is faciliated by Felicia Harris, Team Coordinator and is a dream made real by the efforts of the circle, Crossville Housing Authority, Bank Of Putnam county, a $136,000 check from the Tennessee Housing Authority, support of board members John Rust with the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth and community partnerships. Also in attendance was the mayor of Crossville, J.H. Graham, Representative Cameron Sexton, Cheri Richards, regional administrator for the DCS Upper Cumberland Region, Felicia Harris, DCS team coordinator, Jennifer Friel, team coordinator, Jennie Wright, team leader, John Rust, TCCY, Erika Campbell, CANS consultant and Mary Linkous, of the Youth Villages Transitional Living Program.

On September 19, 2014 the Upper Cumberland DCS and the Crossville Housing Authority participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for the Harper Apartments. This iniitiative will provide supportive housing for Extended Foster Care youth. This project started as part of our Youth Circle which is faciliated by Felicia Harris, Team Coordinator and is a dream made real by the efforts of the circle, Crossville Housing Authority, Bank Of Putnam county, a $136,000 check from the Tennessee Housing Authority, support of board members John Rust with the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth and community partnerships. Also in attendance was the mayor of Crossville, J.H. Graham, Representative Cameron Sexton, Cheri Richards, regional administrator for the DCS Upper Cumberland Region, Felicia Harris, DCS team coordinator, Jennifer Friel, team coordinator, Jennie Wright, team leader, John Rust, TCCY, Erika Campbell, CANS consultant and Mary Linkous, of the Youth Villages Transitional Living Program.

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(Photo: TYLER WHETSTONE/THE JACKSON SUN)
Jackson Sun: Leaders from across region meet to talk about juveniles


Monday afternoon juvenile judges, state representatives and members of Tennessee’s Department of Children Services met for their quarterly West Tennessee Regional Three Branches Institute at the West Tennessee Research and Development Center.
The branches come together to ask questions and address issues they are facing in their particular line of work.
DCS Commissioner Jim Henry represents the executive branch, the state representatives like Senator Reginald Tate, who serves District 33 in Memphis, represent the state legislation and judges like Juvenile Court Judge and Institute Chair, Christy Little, represent the judicial branch.
"We all play a different role in the lives of the children in West Tennessee and the goal is for us to meet at the table and try to come up with ways to effect legislation," Little said.

Click here for story.

(Photo: TYLER WHETSTONE/THE JACKSON SUN)

Jackson Sun: Leaders from across region meet to talk about juveniles

Monday afternoon juvenile judges, state representatives and members of Tennessee’s Department of Children Services met for their quarterly West Tennessee Regional Three Branches Institute at the West Tennessee Research and Development Center.

The branches come together to ask questions and address issues they are facing in their particular line of work.

DCS Commissioner Jim Henry represents the executive branch, the state representatives like Senator Reginald Tate, who serves District 33 in Memphis, represent the state legislation and judges like Juvenile Court Judge and Institute Chair, Christy Little, represent the judicial branch.

"We all play a different role in the lives of the children in West Tennessee and the goal is for us to meet at the table and try to come up with ways to effect legislation," Little said.

Click here for story.

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A Great Day in Court Promises More Success Ahead

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone at DCS for their hard, dedicated work over the past year and a half in getting us back on track in the Brian A. consent decree.

Today I was pleased to be in the court room of U.S. District Judge Todd J. Campbell, where attorneys for the department and Children’s Rights described our accelerated progress toward achieving compliance with this long-running case.
This time last year, we came into maintenance on two items, but fell out of maintenance on six. Today we were able to talk about how we achieved compliance on 14 items. We are definitely back on track. It is great to know we’re heading in the right direction.
In general here is where we have been most successful in recent months, in the areas of safety, quality assurance and services to children. The plaintiffs and the Technical Assistance Committee noted our improvement in background checks and expedited approval for kinship resource homes. 
Great effort, everyone. I’m proud of the work you’re doing, and I know that it this will continue to benefit the children in Tennessee. I’m energized by our successes and confident that we can achieve maintenance by the end of 2015. 
I want to encourage everyone’s passion and commitment to this work.
Thank you.
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Michael Leach Awarded Champion for Children by CASA

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On Wednesday, Tennessee’s Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children celebrated their twenty-five year anniversary and hosted their annual meeting at the Nashville Public Library. CASA is a nonprofit organization established to support the development, growth and continuation of programs, which recruit and train volunteers to serve as advocates representing the best interests of abused and neglected children. The most important goal of Tennessee CASA is to provide a CASA volunteer for every child in Tennessee who needs one by the year 2020.

During the annual meeting, CASA presented the Champion for Children Award and the Light of Hope Award to two individuals that stood out above the rest in their dedication to serving the children of Tennessee.  

The Champion for Children Award goes to an individual that exemplifies the word “champion.” A champion is defined as a person who fights or argues for a cause on behalf of someone else. Our very own DCS Director of Independent Living, Michael Leach, was the recipient of the Champion for Children Award. We could not be more proud of Michael.

As best said by Lynne Farrar, Executive Director of CASA,”Youth in care are not just a number to Michael Leach; he takes the time to listen and find creative solutions to the many challenges facing our youth. He may not be able to solve every problem, but he will work to find the answer. He finds a way to say ‘yes’ to help in some way with every child. His optimism and determination improves the lives of young people. This is why Michael Leach is the champion for children.” Congratulations, Michael!

We also want to congratulate Tawny Spinelli as the recipient of the Light of Hope Award. Tawny serves as the Children’s Cabinet Assistant Director and the Tennessee Young Child Wellness Coordinator.

In this photo, below: Lynne Farrar, TN CASA Executive Director, Tawny Spinelli, Mike Leach and Charlie Davenport, TN CASA Board President.

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Here is the schedule for the Windows Tablet deployment to field staff by region. 
We are looking forward to seeing this technology assist in the fieldwork done by caseworkers across the state.

Here is the schedule for the Windows Tablet deployment to field staff by region. 

We are looking forward to seeing this technology assist in the fieldwork done by caseworkers across the state.