Gutting the Bureaucracy – A Win for Conservatives

By Connie Reguli

On June 30, 2022 the United States Supreme Court filed an opinion in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency which significantly curtailed the authority of the EPA to restrict the production of energy in existing power plants relying on coal.

For years I have screamed out, “the problem with government is no one stays in their own lane”. Meaning that the judiciary acts like a legislature, the agencies act like law makers and law enforcement, and law enforcement acts like judges.. No one stays within the limits of their constitutional boundaries.

The decision in WV v. EPA deals directly with a bureaucratic agency acting like legislators and law enforcement. In 2015 (Obama), the EPA enacted that Clean Power Plant rule which severely restricted emissions from this nation’s power plants. (Reminding you, of course, that the liberals also want everyone to drive electric cars which depend on power generated by these plants.)

This move by the EPA hit the proverbial nerve of major power producers including those in the state of West Virginia. The goal of these EPA regulations was to shut down coal production in the United States and shift to natural gas and “renewables”, i.e., wind and solar. For the state of West Virginia, this was like sticking their head in the guillotine. The year following this EPA decision, coal production dropped in WV by 20 million tons: an economic blow to WV.

The Trump administration repealed the Clean Power Plant rule in 2017, by the time this case came to the Supreme Court, the administration had changed again to democrat control.

Looking to the SCOTUS decision the syllabus explains that the Agency determined that the interpretive
question raised by the Clean Power Plan fell under the major questions doctrine. Under that doctrine, it determined, a clear statement is necessary for a court to conclude that Congress intended to delegate authority “of this breadth to regulate a fundamental sector of the economy.” It found none.

In other words, this executive branch agency could not rely on a vague statute to give itself broad regulatory authority that had not otherwise been approved by Congress.

CNN report states this: Kirti Datla, an attorney for Earthjustice, a nonprofit focused on litigating climate issues, said this case paves the way for Republican-led states and fossil fuel companies to challenge current and future EPA rules on planet-warming emissions.

“I think the biggest takeaway is that the court produced an opinion that did exactly what the challengers [GOP-led states and coal companies] wanted,” Datla said.

In its opinion, the court cut back agency authority by invoking the Major Questions Doctrine — a ruling that will impact the federal government’s authority to regulate in other areas of climate policy, as well as regulation of the internet and worker safety. It says that the biggest issues should be decided by Congress itself, not agencies like the EPA.

“Prior to today, the court would look at [an agency] and say ‘this decision is within your lane and expertise and we’re going to defer to your technical decision here,'” said Jay Duffy, an attorney and expert on power plant emissions at the Clean Air Task Force. “Today, unless the actual rule you have chosen has been clearly authorized by the Congress, you don’t have the authority to do it.”

DOES THIS RULING EFFECT OTHER EXECUTIVE BRANCH AGENCIES

AT THE STATE AND FEDERAL LEVEL?

Many citizens have faced frustrations with executive branch agencies at the state and federal level where the agencies create their own rules, regulations, and policies that are not otherwise authorized by lawmakers. For years I battled the overreach of the Department of Children’s Services in the State of Tennessee who made their own rules and kept them secret until they needed to wield some power over an unsuspecting parent. Although the Supreme Court ruling does NOT give us significant power to rely on this to curtail other agencies, it provides a strong argument that executive branch agencies cannot make rules that limit the lives and businesses of citizens without an Act of Congress.

It looks likes Congress needs to get back to work running this Country.

Civil Rights – Where prosecutorial immunity ends and liberty begins……

By Connie Reguli – June 30, 2022

SCORE for personal liberty against lying, cheating District Attorneys (and other prosecuting government attorneys like CPS) – The Fifth Circuit entered an opinion on May 3, 2022. See Wearry v. Foster, 20-30406, 5th Cir. In this opinion, the prosecutor was denied absolute immunity when he proffered the fabricated testimony of a juvenile to prosecute a defendant for murder. It took years to undo, in fact the case started in 1998 and this opinion is dated May 2022. Twenty-four years and the case is not over. The plaintiff, if he is even alive, will likely have several more years of fighting to get to trial.

42 USC Sec. 1983 is supposed to provide relief for ordinary citizens whose rights have been trampled by “state actors”, i.e., anyone who works on behalf of, under the employment of, or under the title of a government function. In this case, the lawsuit was brought against prosecutor and police officer for the investigatory acts of conspiring to bring false testimony to trial.

Connie Reguli in Washington DC

The Opinion described the circumstances like this:

Nothing in the story the defendants invented was based on
information the child had provided to the Detective or the District Attorney.
As Wearry’s complaint plainly puts it, “Perrilloux and Foster made an
intentional and deliberate decision to fabricate a narrative.” In the District
Attorney and Detective’s narrative, Ashton had gone to a “musician
appreciation” function at his church on the night of the murder. According
to the false narrative, as he walked home alone, he heard footsteps and hid
under a house. Following their script, Ashton testified that he then saw
Wearry throw Walber’s cologne bottle into a ditch and get into Walber’s car.
In reality, Ashton had been at a strawberry festival with his older sister in
Ponchatoula miles away from the scene on the night of Walber’s murder.
Ashton had spent the night with his sister in Hammond without coming back
to Livingston Parish. Ashton had never seen Wearry before Foster and
Perrilloux presented Wearry’s photo to him, and Ashton “had no personal
knowledge” of any facts implicating Wearry in the murder, including the
fabrications invented by the defendants. In short, Foster and Perrilloux
knowingly “provided the adolescent with a completely fabricated story” and
intimidated and coerced him to adopt and repeat the story in his testimony.
1

Wearry fought the system for years before his criminal conviction was overturned by the Louisiana Supreme Court. It was only then that he could seek monetary damages for the abuse brought upon him by the government (tax payer funded) employees.

For me, someone who knows the governments abusive tactics violation civil rights everyday of the year, the 33 page opinion is a delightful read. The three judge panel provides an extensive analysis of absolute immunity, qualified immunity, and Monell. These three legal principles are the Damocles of civil rights actions. The opinion acknowledges that “worthy civil rights claims are often never brought to trial,” because of these three doctrines. The overlap and intertwining of these principles “frequently conspire to turn winnable claims into losing ones.”

After the majority of the panel agreed with the District Court that the actions of the prosecuting attorney did NOT afford him absolute immunity, the dissenting opinion found that governing precedent prevented the Court from granting this relief, even though he did not agree. Judge James C. Ho opined this:

“This case illustrates that conspiracy in action. Under the doctrine of
absolute prosecutorial immunity, Wearry cannot bring suit against the
prosecutor or the police officer who wrongly put him on death row. And that
is so even if we assume (as we must at this stage) that the prosecutor and
police officer engaged in a malicious campaign to coerce false testimony
against him. Nor could Wearry sue the municipality that employed the
prosecutor and police officer, because neither of them was operating
pursuant to an official municipal policy or custom. See id. at 691 (“Congress
did not intend municipalities to be held liable unless action pursuant to
official municipal policy . . . caused [the] constitutional tort”); id. (“[A]
municipality cannot be held liable under [42 U.S.C.] § 1983 on a respondeat
superior theory.”).
The good news for anyone outraged by this state of affairs is that the
American people have a remedy. Congress decides what our laws shall be.
Courts merely interpret and apply those laws. So if a court applies a rule of
law that seems wrong and unjust, the people can demand that the legislative
branch fix it.
In sum, Congress can abolish qualified immunity, absolute
prosecutorial immunity, and Monell. And it can do so anytime it wants to.”

Judge Ho called the problem one of the “court’s own making”, i.e, inventing qualified immunity which added a burden to the Plaintiff’s prove. Not only does the plaintiff have to show that his constitutional right was violated, but that it was clearly established at the time the act was committed.

I know from litigation experience, that the plaintiff is faced with razor sharp distinctions in the facts of the case.

Wearry is a good move by the Fifth Circuit Court, it is likely that the defendants will push this to the Supreme Court. We will keep an eye on it.

The Business of Humanity – Privatized Probation.

By Connie Reguli

Another civil rights lawsuit has emerged over privatized probation. The reporter is clear and succinct. Probationers are kept on perpetual probation to keep the fees flowing. Now they are clever enough to use names that sound like official government offices but they are all a human cash scheme.

In West Tennessee Judge Bell wa sanctioned for setting up his in-law (let’s see brother in law maybe) in the probate probation business and then putting more misdemeanants on probation.

Of course Judge Bell was also the one overseeing compliance with probation.

In Rutherford County Tenn a more egregious scheme was uncovered with Providence probation. Overcharging thousands of citizens without oversight.

The 2018 Tenn Comptrollers report is found here. Finding inadequate oversight, policies, and supervision:

I will supplement this report with some additional information later.

June 25, 2022

tennesseelookout.com/2022/06/22/private-probation-company-draws-lawsuit-from-smith-county-man/

Jury trials in Michigan Courts for Parents.

By Connie Reguli.

Connie Reguli with client Wendy Hancock

Over my 28 year history of working with families in situations critical to protecting their liberty interest to raise their children, I have many times thought that the parents deserved a jury trial of their parental rights were at stake.

Do not be deceived, jury trials are not perfect. I have seen judges rewrite jury instructions contrary to the law. In parental rights case we also have a set of troubling vague laws that can easily sway a judge or jury if they don’t like the parent or do t understand the law.

Juries are not supposed to be swayed by emotion, but emotion is always the states objective when they have a case with a kid. Since the prosecution will go first, the state agency will have plenty of chance to blab about what a bad parent is in front of them. There will be little sympathy for parents struggling with substance abuse or domestic violence.

We need more specific laws on matters such as “failure to provide suitable housing” or “failure to cure the conditions that lead to removal.” Tenn Courts say that failure to provide suitable housing is not just a home, but a job, a car, childcare, and other middle class characteristics.

Michgan has made a giant leap. However, o am thinking that attorneys for parents will not recommend jury trial. First of all, it’s harder. Second, more time consuming. Third, the care required to prepare you evidence is heightened.

However I applaud Michigan and the brave folks who got this passed. Let’s carry this to all states. It’s progress.

In May 2022, the State of Michigan adopted a rule to provide for jury trials in juvenile proceedings.

Mich. Ct. R. 3.911
As amended through May 18, 2022
Rule 3.911 – Jury
(A) Right. The right to a jury in a juvenile proceeding exists only at the trial.

(B) Jury Demand. A party who is entitled to a trial by jury may demand a jury by filing a written demand with the court within:

(1) 14 days after the court gives notice of the right to jury trial, or

(2) 14 days after an appearance by an attorney or lawyer-guardian ad litem, whichever is later, but no later than 21 days before trial.

The court may excuse a late filing in the interest of justice.

(C) Jury Procedure. Jury procedure in juvenile cases is governed by MCR 2.508-2.516, except as provided in this subrule.

(1) In a delinquency proceeding,

(a) each party is entitled to 5 peremptory challenges, and

(b) the verdict must be unanimous.

(2) In a child protective proceeding,

(a) each party is entitled to 5 peremptory challenges, with the child considered a separate party, and

(b) a verdict in a case tried by 6 jurors will be received when 5 jurors agree.

(3) Two or more parties on the same side, other than a child in a child protective proceeding, are considered a single party for the purpose of peremptory challenges.

(a) When two or more parties are aligned on the same side and have adverse interests, the court shall allow each such party represented by a different attorney 3 peremptory challenges.

(b) When multiple parties are allowed more than 5 peremptory challenges under this subrule, the court may allow the opposite side a total number of peremptory challenges not to exceed the number allowed to the multiple parties.

(4) In a designated case, jury procedure is governed by MCR 6.401-6.420.

Mich. Ct. R. 3.911

2022 June Florida Class Action for families

By connie Reguli

Class action Florida

https://www.scribd.com/document_downloads/direct/578760096?extension=pdf&ft=1655765335&lt=1655768945&show_pdf=true&user_id=491290248&uahk=z6_HtdSZwxRSeVxTJTw6XmrJhzg

News stories.

https://www.abcactionnews.com/news/local-news/i-team-investigates/lawsuit-dcf-accused-of-keeping-kids-from-relatives-adopting-them-to-system-connected-strangers

Philadelphia steps up with report on excessive removals of children by child protective services.

By Connie Reguli

May 2022

I watched the very first video posted by city commissioner David Oh from Philadelphia. He was shocked and distressed over what he heard. That was 2017. I, however, I was already well trenched in the whole dark world of child protective services.

The stories are the same. The state social workers lie in reports, they get secret ex parte orders, they refuse to follow their own policies, they refuse relative placement, they flip case work deed multiple times cause if more delay, they refuse to turn over records, and they constantly tell state legislators that they don’t have brought money.

The final report for Philadelphia is here.

But let’s review.

The Philadelphia special commission found that in 2017, the City of Philly removed more children per capita than any major city in the US. Three times more that New York and four times more than Chicago. The commission was set with the task to determine why. The committee divided itself into subcommittees on the following topics: policy and procedure and DHS and family court. Through case studies, public forums, surveys, and a diverse committee membership, they made several recommendations.

Now is the time for me to say that I agree wholeheartedly with their recommendations and I have set forth the very same recommendations for years. That’s okay though. I am one person, one voice, one attorney, one advocate, and one lobbyist. I am excited and encouraged that the rumble for reform has risen to the next tier. Here are how their ideas shook out:

On Policy and Procedure: The commission found faulty reporting and wrongful removals. This was due to several issues. Poverty is interpreted as neglect. Neglect has no standard definition. Children who could remain in their home with support were removed. Record keeping and reports were faulty. Children who were witnesses to domestic violence in the home were removed which caused more trauma for the child and hindered the reporting of domestic violence. Mandating reporting removes the reasonable discretion of professionals. Families were not provided adequate notice of their constitutional rights including Miranda rights against self-incrimination. Siblings were confiscated at birth when a parent had a history with the system without an assessment of the ability of the parent. Minorities were being disproportionately impacted. And centralized registries were being used without due process.

On DHA and Family Court: Parents were not adequately represented once they entered the system. Children’s true interest and constitutional rights were not being represented. Family court systems were closed and secretive. Cases would linger in the system without resolution.

Some of the recommendations ring a familiar tone and must be applied broadly across the United States:

The list boils down to something like this:

  • The Courts should be open for public viewing. This helps to provide citizen and press oversight. The purveyors and can be given restrictions on the names and identify of the children and parents could move the court to close the proceeding.
  • All social workers must wear body cams and record all interviews and meetings.
  • All cases must be completed on a timely basis.
  • Child representation needs to follow the model of the ABA (American Bar Association) and not the historic “best interest” model.
  • Parents need quality representation and a multidisciplinary approach to resolving their involvement with CPS.
  • Families need to have effective counsel earlier in the process. The commission found that waiting until the parents were already facing litigation was too late. They needed earlier representation and an early Miranda warning.
  • That the refusal to cooperate with CPS alone should never be a reason for removal of a child.
  • That neglect needed a clearer definition and should not be a reason for removal unless there was sufficient evidence to show harm to the child. Most of the neglect cases in Philly were poverty related. The commission declared that poverty in and of itself was never a cause for removal.
  • The determinations of capacity and fitness to parent needed to consist of independent assessments.
  • Mandatory reporting needed to end.

So here were are again. Two thousand twenty-years B.C. in the United States of America and we are at the same precipice that we have been at for the last ten years at least. Those who have worked in the area of child welfare consistently since 2002 have seen the effects of a incompetent and grossly powerful agency

I look forward to seeing how Philly does this and will be reaching out to these lawmakers and leaders to more support. Thank you David Oh and Richard Wexler for being brave warriors in this battle.

My short form consult is found here

Connie Reguli.

The Systemic Failure of the Family Court Process

By Connie Reguli – Cancelled by the Establishment – Invested in Your Well-being. May 27, 2022.

Connie Reguli (right) woth amazing advocate Lauren from Maine. In Washington DC

I would say I operated different than most attorneys in family law … I cared what happened, I was concerned about children in Courtrooms, I advised my clients on the risk of being too emotional and on being unemotional, and at the end of the day I wanted what was ‘best for the children’. However, it is an oxymoron to speak about the best interests of the child in the adversarial family court realm.

I hear so many people say…my lawyer would not defend me…my lawyer would not put on my evidence…my lawyer did not care…my lawyer did nothing. I am not here to defend lackluster representation, but I am here to say blaming lawyer is not the solution. A recent United States Supreme Court decision, Shinn v Ramirez, the Supreme Court said yes it is the luck of the draw that you had not just one but two crappy attorneys, you cannot do a habeus corpus petition on ineffective assistance of counsel. Done ✅.

However, that is not the end of the story. Attorneys also have to work with the lump of clay called your life that you give them. In the context of family and parent-child relationships depending on the “right” attorney to make it right is an ad hominem argument.

From a lawyers view…people come to us with a mess that evolved out of the imperfections in our clients lives. They end up in the imperfect court system. Which is adversarial by design. It’s a war zone. The biggest weapons, and sometimes the best told lie wins. Lawyers only have so many tools and none of them are meant to resolve anything. Only possible result is win or lose. We can’t undo the clients history so it’s the best spin. And then of course it’s about money. Lawyers have so many expenses and so much risk that the costs are driven up. Part of the court game it wearing out the other side, emotionally or financially. They are paid to “do a job” they are paid to engage in a battlefield.

And clients are ill prepared. They don’t understand the system and judge have no patience for stumbling memories. Cross examination is intended to trip you up so a judge can call you a liar – they will use the judicial vernacular “lacks credibility” but all the same – they call you a liar. And in the world of court – the judge has the final say as to whether or not you are a liar.

I have to get you to turn your heads directly into this perverted and demonic snare.

The best I can I will help you resolve, negotiate, and move past the chaos or unfold the mysteries of litigation. If you rely on a fair and impartial judge who will render a decision on the best interest of your child you are waking blindly in a minefield.

I also intend to train an army of advocates to help.

You can contact me to consult on these issues. God bless.

Click on short form consult request.

Connie Reguli

This is the most important election in the country.

fb.watch/cLvbt4zXxq/

Connie Reguli in the Guardian

The Sunday Guardian published a story in Oct 2018 –

In the USA, we have witnessed a 40-year social experiment in child protection initiated in 1974 by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). This experiment has failed. The project of casting layers of legislation on the American public in the name of the “best interest of the child” and promoted with the belief that every family needs government oversight, has backfired.

It is hard to imagine in a first-world country like the United States, that government officials can walk into your child’s school, have them removed from their classroom, interviewed in private, taken from school, and placed in the home of a stranger; all without your knowledge. And for what reason? Maybe they feel you don’t feed your child enough, maybe your child missed a few days from school, maybe someone just lied and said you were a drug dealer, and your child could not give the right answers to exonerate you.

It is hard to imagine in a first-world country that a newborn baby could be stripped from his mother’s arms in a hospital because the mother had one positive test for opiates during pregnancy, even though there was no showing of drugs in the mother or the child at birth, and there is no other evidence of child abuse or neglect.

It is hard to imagine in a first-world country that a child could be forced by law to stay incarcerated in a hospital with a rare and untreated disease and separated from her entire family simply because her parents wanted to take her for a second medical opinion.

It is hard to imagine in a first-world country that these drastic and intrusive measures can be taken by the state on anonymous reports that might be from spiteful neighbours, hostile ex-spouses or other ill-intended persons.

Parents shudder when facing child protection agencies because at every stage of the case they know that the same agency is gathering evidence against them. The same social worker who comes to their home to inspect for safety reasons is likely to be the person who gets on the stand and testifies that the laundry was not done and the home was cluttered, preventing the return of their children.

This is the state of the child protection system in the United States.

Atty Connie Reguli seeks Juvenile Court bench.

Brentwood Attorney who battles DCS set to challenge Juvenile Court Judge

Brentwood Attorney Connie Reguli announces that she will challenge Williamson County Juvenile Judge Guffee for her judicial seat in the 2022 election. Reguli has been the leading voice for reform of the Department of Children’s Services and for judicial reform in Tennessee since 2010.  Reguli is an attorney with twenty-seven years of practice serving families across the State of Tennessee primarily focused on challenging the overreach of the Department of Children’s Services.  

In 2018, Reguli directly challenged the ex parte actions of DCS worker Deandra Miller, DCS attorney Tracy Hetzel, and Smith County Judge Michael Collins when Collins entered a secret order against her client after Reguli have made multiple attempts to telephone DCS employees to assist them in their investigation of her client.  Reguli immediately called Miller, her supervisor, the DCS office, and law enforcement to acknowledge that she would meet and assist them.  Reguli says that DCS has a policy in place to meet in advance of their secret rush to court.   Instead of calling back, Miller traveled to another county and got a secret order to remove this child and put her in a stranger’s home.  At the end of the case, DCS dismissed their petition but not without much chaos. The 12 year-old was shuffled to six homes and exposed to neglect.  Reguli and her client were arrested.  Circuit Court Judge Joseph A. Woodruff changed the language of the custodial interference law to allow the prosecution of her client to proceed. Reguli says, “It is well settled in this state that judges cannot change the law, that is left to the legislature.”  This matter is on appeal.  

Reguli says Department of Children’s Services employees and county attorney Lisa Carson employees her social media which routinely calls out the incompetencies in the system. Reguli says, “Tennessee child welfare is archaic compared to other states who implement a more sophisticated system of services to families to keep children in their homes; all because of money, private contractors, federal incentives, and incompetence.”  

Reguli has also fought for civil rights of children and families against DCS.  Reguli obtained a federal order finding that the Fourth Amendment would apply to social workers and another order that says that solitary confinement of juveniles is excessive punishment.  As simple as this sounds, this takes years of dedication and persistence to get the courts to acknowledge these basic rights.  

Reguli sued Williamson County and its juvenile court employees in 2014 when her client was wrongfully held in the Williamson County detention center and then assaulted by a staff member.  “The rights of children have been sorely assaulted by the poor operation of detention centers which are really jails for kids.”  Reguli opined.  

Reguli has participated in over forty state court litigation appeals, setting the standard on complex legal questions. 

Reguli’s family were the founders of the historic New Orleans Manor restaurant in Nashville in 1978 which remained a bulwark of seafood cuisine in Middle Tennessee until 2010.  The restaurant is documented in the Pictorial History of Nashville.  

Reguli is a mother of three children she adopted from Russia and now a proud grandmother of their children.  “Raising children yourself is an important attribute for a judge making decisions for other families,” Reguli says.  She has worked for families in thirty-five counties in Tennessee and served families in Maryland, South Carolina, and Kentucky. 

Reguli had been a political voice for change since 2010.  She has spoken in front of legislative bodies, prepared proposed litigation, and built a social media following of over sixteen thousand.  Her organization Family Forward Project has held educational events in Montana, Washington, Arizona, Connecticut, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, Michigan, and Washington D.C. 

MISSOURI – Dept. of Social Services under FIRE

Nov 3, 2021 – Connie Reguli

In 2017, DSS in Missouri was sued for on behalf of 13,000 foster children for being over-exposed to psychotropic medication. Jennifer Tidball was the acting director at the time of the allegations. The lawsuit filed by St. Louis University Legal Clinic said that children has a constitutional right to be free from harm while in state’s care. The action alleged that 30 percent of the children in state care are prescribed psychotropic meds, anti-depressants, mood stabilizers. All eyes were on Mo. DSS for a short period of time.

On October 4, 2021, it was reported 978 children went missing from Mo. DSS foster care. A hearing was set with Mo lawmakers for later that week. A report was released by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General. The state does not have policies to identify foster children who may be at risk of running away. The investigation showed that one in three children did not receive any required health and safety checks. A federal report from 2014 requires states receiving federal taxpayer foster care money requires the states to have protocol for locating any missing children and make missing child reports within 24 hours. Notably, the investigators found the case management system creates challenges trying to provide oversight because the system does not differentiate between children who are missing from placement and those who may be in an unauthorized, but known placement.

On October 25, 2021, the

On November 2, 2021, a state government building in the capital city burned down in the wee hours night before. This building housed the information technology services for DSS, that would be presumably all records related to children in custody and foster care.

Mo. DSS has had eight state directors in seven years.

It’s not about caseload, it’s about incompetence.

By Connie Reguli – 10/19/2021

This article by Channel Five appears to rely on a whistleblower case worker at DCS who claims that the case loads are overwhelming. With workers having over 80 cases.

However it is not about caseload, it is about incompetence.

Commissioner Nichols has admitted that under her watch children are in foster care longer and that a case is delayed for six months when there is turn over. The truth is that DCS wants to keep kids in care for 15 months to maximize the Title IV federal tax dollars that go into their budget. They want to adopt out kids to get that extra bonus check under Adoption and Safe Families Act. And parents are fighting harder against DCS. They tell lies I’m affidavits. They fail to make proper assessments. And they refuse to send kids home timely.

Channel Five Ben Hall writes:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Caseworkers at the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services have so many cases that some are failing to meet monthly with children – as required by DCS policy.

A whistleblower provided data to NewsChannel 5 Investigates which shows a trend one lawmaker calls terrifying.

The documents show shockingly high caseloads for caseworkers in Davidson County’s Child Protective Services division which investigates allegations of abuse and neglect.

They also reveal a trend in which many caseworkers are not meeting monthly with children or not entering data about those meetings into the system.

DCS called the data a snapshot in time and said it is part of an internal management tool designed to help supervisors prioritize their tasks.

Screenshots from a DCS database in September showed some caseworkers in Davidson County with more than 80 cases.

Each case can include more than one child.

Earlier this week, we found two caseworkers with 98 cases.

That is nearly five times higher than the average monthly caseload allowed by state law.

State Representative Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville), has voiced concern about high caseloads in the past.

“If you give somebody an impossible amount of work, no one can complete it,” Johnson said.

But even she was surprised by the internal graphs we showed her.

The graphs track required monthly meetings with potential victims of abuse and neglect in Davidson County called face-to-face contacts.

A face-to-face contact could include a Zoom meeting because of COVID-19.

In June, 34% of open cases were marked as “Not Found” — meaning no caseworker visited or information about that visit was not entered into the system.

In July, 41% of open cases were listed as “Not Found.”

And in August it rose to 46.9% — nearly half of all open cases.

DCS said the reports show a “single point in time” and the numbers can change as workers enter more data.

Meetings should be entered within 30 days.

“Those face-to-face contacts, that’s how they find out how the kids are doing. Are they OK? Are things going well?” Johnson said.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Johnson, “What do you think when you see those numbers?”

“This terrifies me,” Johnson said.

The tragic case of 2-year-old Zephania Green shows why regular visits are critical.

As we first reported in 2019, DCS placed Zephania inside a home outside Davidson County despite warnings the home was not safe.

Four months later Zephania died.

Investigators took pictures of the deplorable conditions inside the home where she died.

They showed dirty dishes piled high in the kitchen, unusable bathrooms and bedrooms, and drug paraphernalia.

His caregiver said she fell asleep with Zephania in a recliner, when she woke up, the 2-year-old was blue and unresponsive.

No charges were filed, but DCS’s own investigation revealed the caseworker who put Zephania in the home never visited – during the four months he was there.

She told DCS it was too far to drive.

That caseworker was later fired.

State Senator Heidi Campbell (D-Nashville), said as caseloads get higher, the children are in more danger.

“It’s always been bad. It’s always been a problem, but through this pandemic, it has gotten much, much worse,” Campbell said.

She was alarmed by the number of children not being seen in the Davidson County Child Protective Services reports.

“What happens is the children suffer and we see here where the children are not even getting seen,” Campbell said.

“We need to overhaul this system. We need to take a hard look at why it’s not working,” Campbell said.

Senator Campbell sent a letter to Gov. Bill Lee last month which stated the situation at DCS is “deteriorating.”

She cited an employee survey that blasted current DCS leadership as one reason workers are leaving.

In response to questions from NewsChannel 5 Investigates, DCS sent a statement saying it “is experiencing staff turnover and challenges with hiring.”

DCS stated “we are aggressively taking steps to retain our current staff” including a recent pay raise of more than 4% for case managers.

In Davidson and surrounding counties, DCS said it has contracted with a private provider to help with caseloads.

Lawmakers say the high caseloads and lack of regular visits show the urgent need for reforms at DCS.

Here is more of DCS’s initial statement:

“The reports you have are from Safe Measures, a management tool that pulls data from TFACTS, the department’s case management system. Safe Measures is a dashboard to help case managers and their supervisors prioritize their daily and weekly tasks. The Safe Measure reports show a single point in time. It is not a full report of the number of face-to-face visits made by case managers as captures both documentation already entered and data yet to be entered. Case managers can see what work has been done, and what work remains to be done so that they may plan accordingly. The Safe Measures report changes every day as new data is entered by case managers.”

For example, the month of August 2021 (last month) shows 46.9% of kids were “Not Found”

In the Safe Measures report, this means the data was not found – meaning not yet entered – in the system, not that the visit had not occurred, or the child was not found.

“Like many other organizations across the country, including both public and private child welfare agencies, DCS is experiencing staff turnover and challenges with hiring. We are aggressively taking steps to retain our current staff. As you know, On July 1, case managers who have been with the department for more than one year received a 4.25% salary increase. This was on top of salary increase for all state employees. To help reduce caseloads in Davidson and the surrounding counites, we have also added contracted case managers from a private provider. We are also exploring further strategies to retain and recruit staff including flexible work hours/shifts, the ability to work remotely, recruitment opportunities with universities and colleges, and employing retirees to assist on a temporary contractual basis.” 

Late Wednesday, the department provided information about visits to a separate groups of kids – who are in state custody – and said caseworker meetings with that group are meeting or exceeding federal goals.

DCS provides information about face-to-face meetings with all children in state custody to the federal government – the Children’s Bureau.

DCS also released a new statement on Wednesday:

The Children’s Bureau set a specific goal for the department to make at least one face-to-face visit per month with 95% of children in state custody. It also set a goal of conducting 50% of those visits in the child’s placement (at the foster home or residential treatment facility). The Davidson region exceeds both goals and fell just short of the goal for overall face-to-face visits in February 2021.

The Children’s Bureau does NOT require face-to-face visits for children who are NOT in state custody receiving services. DCS does, however, provide services to children who are NOT in state custody and their families. The data you see in the screenshots you have from the Safe Measures tool show, at that moment in time, the number of face-to-face visits with children who are NOT in state custody and their families who are receiving services from the department. Again, the department is not required to conduct or track visits with non-custodial youth; we use the Safe Measures tool to help our non-custodial case managers manage their work.