Foster child’s death is one in list of problems for DCS

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Department of Children's Services said its foster care program is about providing children safety and security.

What happens when those safe and secure surroundings don't pan out?

This week's death of 6-year-old foster child Destine King in Memphis is just another example of where children removed from their home still ended up in danger.

"It's sad. It's tragic," Tennessee State Representative G.A. Hardaway of Memphis said. He said DCS has systematic problems that come down to one thing: resources.

"That's the obligation of the General Assembly to make sure to give them adequate funding so they can buy the software computers and hire the personnel, better train personnel," Hardaway said.

WREG Investigators highlighted the problems back in 2013.

We struggled to get answers about the number of kids in Shelby County who died in DCS custody from 2008-2012. We were eventually told 26 or 27.

We even joined other media outlets, suing for records the department refused to turn over.

Lawmakers demanded reform from DCS, which at the time still questioned its role in the some of the tragedies.

Here is what DCS safety director Carla Aaron said to WREG investigators two years ago.

"We can't determine that we did anything negligible that impacted the child's death," Aaron said in 2013.

So what's changed?

We still don't know the particulars that led to this latest death.

DCS does now provide quarterly updates on its website on the number of children who die in DCS custody.

On its website, DCS says potential foster parents go thorough background checks, training and a home study to prove they are able to care for foster children. The state said it's also improving technology and making sure child abuse investigators have manageable caseloads and better training.

Still, Rep. Hardaway says problems persist.

"We don't have enough personnel. The personnel we have is overworked. Don't cut DCS. Give DCS additional funding so they can save our children," Hardaway said.

Hardaway said kids that don't get help can also end up in juvenile detention, in trouble or worse, like 6-year old Destine King with no more chances.

Hardaway said when lawmakers return to Nashville he plans to call a meeting with DCS and government operations to get an update on DCS' performance and see what the agency needs to do its job better.