‘We’re failing them’: MNPD called to DCS facility hundreds of times for missing children, fights, criminal activity

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The homes sheltering some of Tennessee’s most at-risk children as they await foster care placement comes with its own dangers and issues, according to logs of calls made to Metro Nashville Police.

News 2 obtained the logs for more than 500 calls made to two neighboring Department of Children’s Services (DCS) transitional homes in Davidson County between Jan. 1 and Oct. 27 of this year.

The reports show multiple instances where police were called to the homes for fights, criminal activity, theft, and reports of a person with a weapon.

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The most common type of call was for missing children or runaway juveniles with more than 200 instances in a 10-month period.

During the Department of Children’s Services budget hearing this week, the governor asked the DCS commissioner about the state of transitional housing.

“We’ve moved to a better situation with transitional housing, still critiquing conditions in some settings,” Gov. Bill Lee (R-Tennessee) asked Commissioner Margie Quin. “Where are we headed with that?”

“We know there are issues with kids waiting to be placed and we want to place them as quickly as possible,” Quin said. “We have a new team in place to address that, and that is something that we’ve been doing in the last 60 days.”

However, police call logs found about a dozen calls were made to police in October regarding missing children.

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When pressed by reporters about the conditions at the transitional homes, Quin stressed the children come from “difficult circumstances.”

“They’re coming into custody; they’ve experienced complex trauma; it’s a very difficult situation,” she said. “But they’re under the direct supervision of DCS staff and behavior health specialists.”

State Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) represents Davidson County and has been disappointed by the treatment of children in state custody.

“They’re facing instability in their lives; they’re facing a lot of these adverse childhood experiences. You know, that’s when they need our help the most, and we’re failing them not only on the front end, but while they’re in state custody,” Clemmons said.

Clemmons noted it was only a year ago when the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office found kids were sleeping on the floor after being taken into DCS custody.

“I agree with DCS. They need more resources; we need more caseworkers; we need better facilities and to provide more assistance to these children,” he said.

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When asked for a response on the reports of crime and missing children at DCS transitional homes in Nashville, a spokesperson for the department wrote about the conditions at the homes.

Despite incredible progress in the last year, there is still much work to be done. Children and youth in transitional housing face a tremendous challenge when coming into the care of DCS. Our staff and the onsite behavioral health specialists work to meet the needs of those youth every day. When damage or destruction occurs in the houses, work begins immediately to repair, purchase or replace. Commissioner Quin continues to be transparent about the challenges of placement but remains optimistic about support from community partners and the faith community that responded when the need was great. The DCS real estate plans Governor Lee and the State Building Commission approved in September will provide more stable solutions for DCS and children entering our care. Those plans are underway and will lay the groundwork for modernizing Tennessee’s child welfare system.

DCS spokesperson

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