NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Gov. Bill Lee is pushing for the Tennessee General Assembly to pass a bill that would dissolve an independent state agency that found problems with the state’s foster care system.
“Across the board, everyone on our staff was just completely blindsided by this,” said Kylie Graves, Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth Policy Specialist.
If passed, HB0330 would put the commission’s responsibilities under other government agencies, which includes looking into departments that seek to improve child welfare such as the Department of Children’s Services.
“Would this not be the fox guarding the hen house?” asked a reporter to the Republican lawmakers sponsoring the bill on the governor’s behalf.
The commission’s latest report found that Tennessee is No. 1 for children repeatedly being moved to different foster homes.
“This is a nonpartisan independent agency that is literally tasked with doing research on the current departments around how we are dealing with children and youth and what our current status is,” Sen. London Lamar (D-Memphis).
On Thursday, the governor was asked about his motivations for bringing this legislation forward.
“Distributing the work of old commissions into departments within the states that can do that more effectively, it’s all part of our strategy to modernize the way we approach the children in custody in the state and also children in general across the state,” Lee said.
However, the commission worries this would have the opposite effect and add they are governed by 21 people appointed by the governor.
“I think it’s critical for kids that there is an independent agency and keeping track of those agencies we look at every year,” Graves said.
Rep. William Lamberth (R-Portland) is one of the bill’s sponsors and he told reporters he hopes it sparks a conversation about the commission.
“The question is are they fulfilling the mission they have set forth for quite some time,” Lamberth said.
Lamberth also said this isn’t push back to the commission’s 2022 State of the Child report because the issues with the state’s foster care system and DCS were already known.
The bill will be heard in both House and Senate committees next week.