NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Families Not Facilities – a much shorter title than the name of the two groups releasing the solution-based report on the Department of Children’s Services: the Youth Law Center (YLC) and Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT).
“What we’ve seen coming out of the Joint Ad-Hoc Committee on Juvenile Justice is a focus on facilities and staffing,” DRT Policy Coordinator Zoe Jamail said. “We are saying we need a new approach because that approach is what we’ve been doing for a very long time, and it’s not working.”
The two nonprofits lauded much of the work the committee has done, particularly in identifying problems, but solutions are where they differ.
“What’s missing from the conversation is a focus on families,” Jamail said.
Their report details six key suggestions, the main being to invest more resources in proven, family-centered interventions rather than direct those resources toward better facilities.
“Every single one of the top five programs that’s shown to effectively address behavioral challenges in at-risk youth involve family,” YLC Staff Attorney Jasmine Miller said.
The pair said they released the report because while focusing on beds, food, water and shelter is important, it isn’t enough.
“It’s below the bare minimum because a child needs love to thrive,” Miller said. “You are not going to grow up and have a good childhood if all you have is food and shelter and water. Love is a bare minimum.”
Whether or not the powers that be on Capitol Hill will listen remains to be seen. Regardless, both nonprofits say it was worth getting the information out so children have a better chance.
“There has not been the effort that is required to appropriately assess the needs of these youth,” Jamail said.
There will be bills to address DCS issues when the session starts in January, so we’ll see what the legislature changes, if anything.