Tennessee Citizens Review Panels Overview
The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) requires that states which receive funding through this legislation to comply with specific requirements related to developing and maintaining a system to respond to child maltreatment. In 1996, CAPTA was amended to include a provision that states must establish Citizen Review Panels (CRPs) as part of their required activities in order to receive funding. Several aspects of this act have raised questions and concerns about Panel members’ roles and responsibilities; therefore, a set of Frequently Asked Questions About the Citizen Review Panel and the Child Abuse Prevention Treatment Act has been developed. This document answers several of the questions that are typically on the minds of individuals who are new to CRPs and to organizations/agencies that support child welfare programs. Please be aware that laws and regulations change and are subject to different interpretations. The Frequently Asked Questions is intended to provide the reader with helpful guidance, not legal advice. For more information about CRPs and CAPTA, please visit the National Resource Center for Child Protective Services website at www.nrccps.org.
Tennessee has four CRPs located in Montgomery County (Clarksville), Shelby County (Memphis), Hamilton County (Chattanooga), and Northwest Tennessee, which is a region that encompasses nine rural counties of that state. The University of Tennessee College of Social Work Office of Research and Public Service (SWORPS) contracts with the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (TDCS) to coordinate, facilitate, and provide technical assistance to the CRPs in order to meet the federal requirements.
The Montgomery County CRP is located in Clarksville, Tennessee, a city that borders the state of Kentucky and has a large military base within the city limits. The unique population of military personnel, both active and retired, the ethnic diversity, and transient patterns in the population represent unique challenges in child protection. The TDCS in Clarksville investigates a large number of military personnel who are living great distances from extended family and support systems. Many of the soldiers and their families are young and struggling with the development of new relationships in addition to the stresses associated with military deployment. CPS staff members, in this area, face the challenge of conducting CPS investigations within the context of the military base and its imposing structure.
The CRP in Memphis, Tennessee, the largest urban area in Tennessee, was established to analyze issues specific to urban and inner-city areas. TDCS offices in this area of the state suffer from frequent staff turnover and higher than average caseloads. Memphis has the highest caseload of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in Tennessee. The need for monetary support within a family is a factor that contributes to additional family stress/issues that eventually bring the children and their families to the attention of the TDCS. A 2006 report by the Urban Child Institute described single-mother births as the most dangerous condition for children in Shelby County. It is also a contributing factor for one-and-two thirds of all of the maltreated children.
The Hamilton County CRP is located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which is situated in the southeastern part of the state between the ridge and valley portion of the Appalachian Mountains and the Cumberland Plateau, and in close proximity to both Georgia and Alabama. Hamilton County was selected to ensure that the CRPs would have representation in all of the three grand regions of Tennessee. After losing a significant part of its population in the mid-20th century, Chattanooga has undergone a revitalization of the central business district and riverfront areas. Chattanooga is the fourth largest city in Tennessee and supports a diversified community that includes a growing mix of manufacturing and service industries.
The Northwest Region of Tennessee was chosen to have a CRP because it serves a rural population in a relatively large geographical area. While the TDCS staff in this region is stable and turnover is minimal, there are very limited resources to offer to families or to assist the TDCS in its efforts to reduce risk and provide safety to children and families. Providing CPS in this sparsely populated area poses special challenges in reaching isolated families who cannot easily access resources. TDCS has contracted with SWORPS to work with the TDCS office in Knoxville, Knox County, Tennessee, to develop a Citizen Review Panel in that area. There have been meetings with TDCS leadership in Knox County to discuss the technical assistance necessary to establish a Panel in the area.
Each CRP has a Tennessee Department of Children’s Services liaison that serves as an advisor to the panel on the various policies and procedures of the department. CRP members were selected for the panel by the local region. Membership was based on specific guidelines included in the Citizen Review Panels for the Child Protective Services System Guidelines and Protocols.