PBS’s award-winning documentary series, Visionaries, recently featured an episode on the legal fight by Children’s Rights and partners across Tennessee to reform Tennessee’s child welfare system. The class action lawsuit was filed in 2000 against the Governor of Tennessee and the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) “on behalf of all foster children who are or will be in the custody of DCS.” This episode of Visionaries detailed the two decades of litigation aimed at achieving comprehensive improvement of Tennessee’s child welfare system, which included reducing child placement in congregate care facilities and placing children with their siblings more often. Almost twenty years later, Tennessee has sustained this progress and continues to seek out ways to reduce disparities in foster care.
Also featured in the video are CSSP experts: Judy Meltzer, Executive Vice President at CSSP, and Leonard Burton, Senior Fellow. Meltzer provided technical assistance to the Tennessee state government during the litigation, while Burton formerly served as Deputy Commissioner of the DCS for the State of Tennessee. In the episode, Meltzer and Burton share their experiences with investigating Tennessee’s broken child welfare system and discuss their contributions to its reform, showing “how one of the worst child welfare systems in the country became one of the best.”
CSSP was one of the several organizations directly involved in the efforts in Tennessee. Read our report about the litigation and its impacts on hundreds of thousands of children here.
Watch the Visionaries episode here: