Experts on child abuse prevention continue to find some persistent problems with how cases are investigated in Tennessee.
Each year, the Second Look Commission examines the worst cases of abuse, with special attention on children who are harmed after the state has already learned of a prior incident.
The commission’s latest report emphasizes that state investigators could be more proactive in understanding family dynamics. Several recommendations push for investigators — whether with the Department of Children’s Services, law enforcement or the courts — to do more to research family histories and to interview more adults who could have information about abuse.
The group says investigators aren’t always getting enough detail on romantic partners or on fathers who are casually described as not being in a child’s life anymore. In those situations, the commission finds less scrutiny being applied, simply because those adults aren’t present when the investigator shows up. Second Look members want to see more effort put into locating and interviewing these adults.
The group also says DCS investigators could be better at tapping into the department’s computer system to learn important details about a family.
Second Look shares a couple dozen concerns each year. Several have been recurring, including:
- no-contact orders, which are handed out by judges, are still being disobeyed.
- adults aren’t always reporting suspected abuse and neglect as required by law.
Overall, the Second Look finds a trend of fewer children suffering another severe abuse event after the state becomes involved with a family. Still, since 2013, 20 Tennessee children who have died after contact with the state.