The Tennessee Catholic Public Policy Commission supports the on-going restructuring of the Department of Children's Service to strengthen the system to build a child care system which effectively protects those most in need. The department should emphasize prevention and early intervention for children in at risk situation, seek ways to keep families intact if possible, and act swiftly to establish permanent solutions to those cases where it is not possible for children to remain at home. The department should explore the feasibility of private agencies receiving legal custody of minor children and should increase funding for existing service by moving toward the payment of the actual cost of care for contracted services.
Let the children come to me. This is what Jesus said in response to those who wanted to discard children who needed his care and love. The Catholic Church in Tennessee has tried to follow these words in our implementation of various child care programs and services. The Catholic Charities agencies of the three diocese of our state provide a wide range of services including group home care, foster care, day care, supervised visitations, and feeding programs for any child in need regardless of religious belief or ethnic origin with a preference for the low income and most vulnerable.
The Tennessee Catholic Public Policy Commission of Tennessee supports the many developments made in the Department of Children's Services in our state and calls for further support for the safety and well-being of vulnerable children. Child abuse and neglect are complex issues and can not be addressed without consideration of other concerns in our state such as income maintenance, alcohol and drug abuse, and domestic violence. This complex issue must be addressed on many levels.
Child Abuse Prevention: The family of origin can be the preferred location in which a child should be raised and that any treatment or intervention should be family focused not just focused on the child. The Tennessee Catholic Public Policy Commission endorses the belief that child abuse prevention programs must remain strongly supported by our state. This is an important component of a comprehensive approach to dealing with child welfare. We consider parenting education, family counseling, in-home services and the availability of affordable drug treatment are essential aspects of an abuse prevention program.
Foster Care: The Tennessee Catholic Public Policy Commission stance on foster care is based on the premise that Child Protective Services should act swiftly and efficiently if it is determined that a child can not remain at home due to abuse and neglect. Once a child is placed in foster care disruptions should remain at a minimum and permanent placement should be the ultimate goal.
Public/Private Partnerships: The TennesseeCatholic Public Policy Commission endorses the use of contractual relationships with private social service agencies as an approach to dealing with prevention and foster care. We endorse the expansion of resources available to the state Department of Children Services for partnerships in achieving permanent solutions for the overall problem of child abuse and for each child in custody.