Where Are Warnings for DCS Caretakers When There's a Threat of Violence?


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The Tennessean continues its look at how DCS runs and the story in Sunday's paper is among the most upsetting of the series.

Susan Randolph was shot and her husband killed after the father of a girl DCS had temporarily placed with them came to their house to murder the girl (which he did). Randolph sued the state for negligence in the shootings and won, and then the state attempted to keep the judgment a secret. When you hear all the ways DCS screwed up, you can't blame the state for not wanting anyone to know:

The judgment documents a series of missteps by DCS, which had asked the Randolphs to take in a neighbor’s daughter for the weekend until the agency could investigate accusations of child abuse against her father.

The judgment found DCS never warned the Randolphs that Chris Milburn was accused of severe sexual and physical abuse or that he could be violent. It found that a DCS caseworker didn’t follow agency policies and that she backdated her signature of necessary paperwork after the murders. And it found that DCS never gave the couple any instructions on what to do if Milburn insisted on seeing his daughter.

When the Randolphs called the caseworker for advice after Milburn began to act strangely, they were unable to reach her and their calls went straight to voice mail. By the time the caseworker heard those messages, Mr. Randolph and the girl were dead.

This situation is appalling at three levels. First, it's appalling that the Randolphs were put in this situation without the relevant information they needed and then left on their own with a violent killer. Second, it's appalling that the state would then try to keep this information from becoming public, so Mrs. Randolph can't tell anyone or try to do anything to prevent it from happening to others. Finally, it's appalling that, as The Tennessean reports:

[The] trial also exposed the vagueness of existing DCS policies that are supposed to guide caseworkers in how they place children in temporary arrangements. The policies — unchanged since the shooting — don’t specifically require the agency to give caregivers any information about a child’s welfare or guidance on what to do or whom to call if a problem arises, [said Brandon Bass, Mrs. Randolph's attorney.].

DCS still has no requirement that caregivers are given any information about the child or about what to do if there's a problem? This is horrifying. Caregivers, like the Randolphs, are stepping into a child's life when the child is in crisis, and often in danger. And then we just ... what? Wish the caregivers well and drive away?

People were murdered. A child was murdered by her abusive father while on DCS's watch. And that didn't result in policies being changed?

This blows my mind. I know working in DCS has to be really, really hard. And I know employees have to regularly hear stories that would make you sick. So yeah, I get that you probably have to detach from things in order to deal with them. But you have to care deeply about people to even get into that line of work.

A girl in DCS's care was murdered. The family DCS gave her to was shot and one of them murdered. And this was at the hands of a man DCS knew posed a threat to at least the girl.

How does that happen and nothing change?


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