(Memphis) After heading up the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services for two years, Commissioner Kate O’Day is calling it quits.
Governor Bill Haslam made the announcement saying, O’Day, “…was concerned that she had become more of a focus than the children the department serves.”
Legislators and child advocates have been critical of the department and O’Day after learning that more than 70 kids died while in the agency’s care in 2012.
WREG filed an open records request to get information on those fatalities and others dating back to 2008 in Shelby County, but were denied.
We joined a coalition of media outlets in suing DCS for those records, and a judge ruled they have to release the files.
Representative John Deberry of Memphis asked O’Day for more details about the deaths a month ago. In a recent interview with WREG, he defended her work, but said the public deserves answers.
“Folks are not just in the mood anymore for the same old rhetoric, the same old song and dance, the same old dog and pony show, they’ve had enough and they want answers and I think that’s a good thing, I think it will change the culture.”
We spoke with Deberry again today by phone. He says he had a good working relationship with O’Day and called her a “competent and caring” individual.
He says DCS’ problems started long before she arrived, and they won’t be solved overnight. “We’re not giving anybody a chance to fix it,” added Deberry.
He says he’d like to see everyone set politics aside, work together to support the new commissioner and focus on the kids. “We can’t afford to lose anymore children,” Deberry added.
The search for a new commissioner begins immediately.
James Henry, from the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities will serve on an interim basis.
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