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Franklin child advocate Davis leads Commission on Children and Youth

After years of working with the Davis House Child Advocacy Center – a program started by the late District Attorney General Ron Davis to protect severely or sexually abused children, and participating in the Second Look Commission, which looks at second and subsequent incidents of severe or sexual abuse – Franklin resident Brenda Davis was named chairman of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth by Gov. Bill Haslam.

Davis said she thinks the governor sought her for the position because of her experience with the Child Advocacy Center.

“I think he felt like I was somebody he trusts,” she said.

The TCCY has been an advocate for children since the 1980s.

“We do a lot of different things to look for the best outcome for children and for the safety of the community,” Davis said.

After working to protect children one at a time, this new position is a chance “to make many children’s lives better,” she said.

The commission takes a close look at bills fi led in the state legislature that have to do with children’s issues. After the impact study, sometimes legislators realize their bill is not exactly what was intended.

“It may be just a matter of changing a couple of words in the bill,” Davis said.

It’s the unintended consequences that a well-intended bill can create the commission attempts to avoid.

“As chairman of the commission, I guide the work of the TCCY – we serve as a board of directors [for DCS],” she said.

TCCY is partnered with the Department of Children’s Services, which has come under a great deal of scrutiny in recent months. New DCS commissioner Jim Henry met with the TCCY in February to discuss what it can do to help him determine how to fi x DCS and help him with the issues that have plagued the department for a very long time.

“The problems at DCS didn’t just happen, they started a long time ago,” Davis said.

Some of the oversight and management problems of the strained agency have resulted in fatalities in recent years.

Also a member of the Second Look Commission, Davis reviews closed fi les of children looking for clues to what could have been done – within the law, in practice or training to keep a child from being abused a second time, which gives her additional insight into issues affecting children and youth.

“There are always signs and there are things we can do to keep the abuse from escalating – we just have to discover what they are,” Davis said.

A lot has to do with training at DCS and other departments. Sometimes a law enforcement offi cer will close a case because he can’t fi nd the perpetrator, Davis said.

There have been cases where a child is taken out of an abusive situation by DCS and put into another. TCCY and Davis are working to fi x the system – a monumental job at best – but somebody has to do it.

Posted on: 3/15/2013


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