STATE OF TENNESSEE TENNESSEE COMMISSION ON CHILDREN AND YOUTH Andrew Johnson Tower, Ninth Floor 710 James Robertson Parkway Nashville, Tennessee 37243-0800 (615) 741-2633 (FAX) 741-5956 1-800-264-0904 TCCY Legislative Impact Statements Specific to TCCY February 17, 2012 Appointment of TCCY Executive Director SB 2249 (Norris)/HB 2387 (McCormick) TLS Bill Summary: Reorganization of governmental agencies and other entities. Revises various provisions governing the structure of certain state agencies, committees, boards and commissions. Decreases from 17 to 12 the size of the board of directors for the Duck River Development Agency. Authorizes the commissioner of environment and conservation to appoint an executive director to carry out the purposes of the Tennessee Heritage Conservation Trust Fund Act of 2005. (Part of Administration Package 2012) Changes in Current Law: Section 19 on pages 8 and 9 of the printed bill changes appointment authority in TCA 37-3-104 for the executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth (TCCY) from the Commission members to the governor. As a result of this legislation, the executive director of TCCY would be appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the governor rather than the members of the Commission, who are appointed by the governor to staggered three year terms. Impact of Legislation: There has been a statutory Commission on Children and Youth by various names since 1955. Throughout its history, the appointment authority for the executive director of the Commission has varied between the governor and the Commission members. Since the last major statutory change creating the present Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth in 1988, the executive director has been appointed by the commission, answerable to the commission, and subject to removal by a majority of the Commission members, the hiring authority by statute. The executive director serves at the pleasure of the Commission, and this has insulated the director from controlling influence by the governor. The check or balance is in the fact that the governor appoints the Commission members. The proposed amendment would make the executive director answerable to the governor, and not the Commission. There is value in the executive director having a direct link to the governor and the opportunity to “be at the table” as policy is made and voice the best interests of children in that arena. However, once a decision is made, the voice of the executive director would be limited to the policy decision made by the governor, regardless of the position the Commission members might wish to take on an issue. This would not only be true in the unlikely event a governor advocated a policy that did not reflect best practice, it would also be true if a governor chose not to have any position on a critical pending policy issue, as the Commission has experienced with previous administrations. The Commission would be constrained in efforts to pull together partners and implement data driven advocacy for best practice and best interests of children. For the past quarter century, there have been strong collaborative and cooperative relationships between the Commission and the governor and his cabinet. The independence of the Commission has been beneficial for both the Commission and for administrations. When governors have had major policy initiatives supported by the Commission, the independent voice of the Commission is a validation of the quality of those initiatives. And when there has been disagreement, the quality of the discussion and debate has been civil, non-partisan, constructive and beneficial, and the ultimate outcome has been in the best interests of Tennessee children. In order to effectively advocate for children and families, the executive director and the Commission members should remain free from the burdens of partisan politics, free to make agency decisions and support positions that might be contrary to positions preferred by the governor's office. Additionally, the independence of the Commission and its executive director provides continuity for good public policy for Tennessee children when there are changes in governors and the typically accompanying changes in commissioners of the state departments serving children. TCCY Position: OPPOSE. TCCY opposes Section 19 of SB 2249/HB 2387 changing the appointing authority for the executive director of the Commission on Children and Youth from the members of the Commission to the Governor. For almost a quarter of a century TCCY has operated outside the bonds of partisan politics. Decisions of the executive director or the Commission have never been made with concern for being politically popular. Should this bill become law, TCCY will no longer be an independent state agency able to advocate for families and children. This independence has been the foundation of the agency, along with its credibility focused solely on best interests of children, and consequently its ability to serve as a focal point for collaborative efforts bringing together diverse partners to improve outcomes for Tennessee children. This legislation would have a chilling effect upon exercising independent thought and advocacy across the executive, legislative and judicial branches, all in the best interests of ensuring Tennessee children have opportunities to be safe, healthy, supported and nurtured, and engaged in constructive activities for future success. Second Look Commission SB 2316 (Bell)/HB 2538 (Cobb) TLS Bill Summary: Extends the Second Look commission until June 30, 2017. Additional Summary Clarification: The Second Look Commission is due to expire on June 30, 2012. This bill simply extends the commission to June 30, 2017. Impact of Legislation: The Second Look Commission (SLC) was created in 2010 by Public Chapter 1060 (codified as TCA §37-3-801 et seq.) as a unique entity with a single purpose: to make findings and recommendations regarding whether severe abuse cases are handled in a manner that provides adequate protection for the children of Tennessee. The SLC is the only entity that brings together representatives of all key stakeholders in the child protection system in Tennessee: members of the General Assembly, Department of Children’s Services (DCS), law enforcement (including the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and officers from urban and rural areas), district attorneys general, public defenders, courts, child advocacy centers, a physician who specializes in child abuse detection, and other children’s advocates. The SLC is the vehicle for representatives of these key groups to meet together to review cases and identify strategies for improving child protection in Tennessee. The SLC reviews the worst incidents of child abuse in Tennessee, excluding child fatalities. State and Local Child Fatality Review Teams review all child fatalities in Tennessee, not just those resulting from abuse or neglect. Only the Second Look Commission reviews cases of children from all across the state who have experienced a second or subsequent incidence of severe abuse to identify ways to improve the system and help other children avoid a similar fate. Special, concentrated efforts must also be devoted to analyzing and responding to the tragedy of child abuse. The issues regarding severe child abuse cannot be adequately addressed by DCS, TCCY, Child Advocacy Centers, law enforcement or any one organization, or community agency or individual. All stakeholders must come together to address this societal problem in a coordinated and concerted manner. In part, the SLC was created to help bring these stakeholders together to address the issues regarding severe child abuse. Through its coordinated and concerted efforts and its findings and recommendations, the SLC will improve child protection in Tennessee. The proposed legislation will help prevent Tennessee’s children from experiencing the worst types of child abuse. TCCY Position: SUPPORT – The future prosperity of any society depends on its ability to foster the health and well-being of the next generation. When a society invests wisely in children and families, the next generation will pay that back through a lifetime of productivity and responsible citizenship. The basic architecture of the human brain is constructed through an ongoing process that begins before birth and continues into adulthood. Like the construction of a home, the building process begins with laying the foundation, framing the rooms and wiring the electrical system in a predictable sequence. Early experiences literally shape how the brain gets build; a strong foundation in the early years increases the probability of positive outcomes. A weak foundation increases the odds of later difficulties. Chronic stressful conditions such as extreme poverty, child abuse or maternal depression – what scientists now call “toxic stress” – can also disrupt the architecture of the developing brain. This can lead to lifelong difficulties in learning, memory and self-regulation. Preventing child abuse and intervening effectively when it first occurs are keys to avoiding lifelong negative consequences from child abuse. Cases reviewed by the Second Look Commission make it abundantly clear that there are gaping holes in the systems responding to child maltreatment in Tennessee. As a state, we can and we must identify and implement strategies to ensure children who experience severe abuse, who are among the most vulnerable Tennesseans, receive the protection and remediation assistance they deserve. TCCY supports legislation that helps identify and implement strategies to protect children from severe child abuse and assist with remediation assistance for those who experience severe child abuse. In its first year of existence, the SLC has identified strategies to protect children from severe child abuse and identified needed areas of assistance for those children who have experienced severe child abuse. However, identifying strategies and areas of assistance are just the beginning of improving how severe child abuse cases are handled. TCCY supports the continuation of the SLC and its ongoing work. Children’s Program Outcome Review Team (CPORT) Appropriations Bill Appropriations Recommendation: Eliminate the Children’s Program Outcome Review Team. CPORT examines programs serving children at risk of entering or currently in state custody. ($1,509,100, 19 positions). TCCY Position: OPPOSE – The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth opposes elimination of and supports restoration of funding for the Children’s Program Outcome Review Team (CPORT). CPORT provides the only annual, independent quality service review of a statistically valid random sample of cases of children in or at risk of state custody. This is an important mechanism for improving practice in the provision of services for some of the most vulnerable children in Tennessee. CPORT has made significant contributions to improving outcomes for children, but there is still substantial room for ongoing improvement. The CPORT process is in the best interests of Tennessee children as it provides accurate, unbiased data and recommendations for continual improvements in services for children in or at risk of state custody. . The Commission has asked staff to pull together additional information highlighting the positive impact of CPORT and to distribute the information as it is prepared. State Supplements for Improving Juvenile Courts SB 3771 (Norris)/HB 3839 (McCormick) TLS Bill Summary: Statutory changes required for implementation of the annual appropriations act. Changes in Current Law: Section 1 of the legislation changes the provisions in TCA 37-1-162 relative to the state supplements for juvenile courts administered by TCCY from “shall” to “may” regarding supplements provided to the counties for improvement of juvenile court services administered by the Commission on Children and Youth and provides they will be available “if funds for such purpose are appropriated in the general appropriations act.” Impact of Legislation: The legislation would make the provision of state supplements to juvenile courts from the Commission subject to whether or not they are in the appropriations act. These funds are interdepartmental to the Commission from the Department of Children’s Services (DCS). It has been reported DCS Commissioner Kathryn O’Day has “assured” the juvenile court judges each county will continue to receive these funds, but they will be administered directly from DCS rather than TCCY. TCCY Position: SUPPORT AN AMENDMENT TO SECTION 1 OF THE BILL AS FILED – TCCY is very supportive of the juvenile courts receiving the state supplements regardless of where they are administered. However, TCCY strongly recommends and supports amending the legislation to provide that the supplements for juvenile courts should be administered by DCS rather than TCCY.
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