Tennessee’s Joint Task Force on Children’s Justice and Child Sexual Abuse Overview
The Task Force has both state and federal mandates. Tennessee Code Annotated § 37-1-603 requires the task force to develop a plan of action for “better coordination and integration of the goals and activities, pertaining to the detection, intervention, prevention, and treatment of child sexual abuse. More specifically, the Task Force State Plan must:
- Inform and instruct appropriate school personnel and children in all school districts, local law enforcement, and the general public in the detection, intervention, prevention and treatment of child sexual abuse and in the proper action that should be taken in a suspected case of child sexual abuse.
- Be submitted every two (2) years to the members of the general assembly and the governor.
Section 107(a) of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (P.L. 111-320) (the Act) authorizes grants to states for the purpose of developing, establishing, and operating programs designed to improve:
- The assessment and investigation of suspected child abuse and neglect cases, including cases of suspected child sexual abuse and exploitation, suspected child abuse-related fatalities and suspected child neglect-related fatalities;
- The investigation and prosecution of cases of child abuse and neglect, including child sexual abuse and exploitation; and
- The assessment and investigation of cases involving children with disabilities or serious health-related problems who are suspected victims of child abuse or neglect.
In addition, the Task Force is required to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the State’s systems every three (3) years and adopt recommendations directed at improving investigative, administrative, and judicial handling of child abuse cases in a manner that limits additional trauma to the child victim.
The members of the Task Force represent federal and state legislatively-mandated categories from the fields of child protection, law enforcement, medical, mental health, attorneys for prosecution and defense, criminal and civil court judges, state child-serving agencies, child advocates, parent advocates, individuals experienced in working with children with disabilities and homeless children, and adults with lived experienced in child welfare. The Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) appoints all members.
DCS contracts with the University of Tennessee, College of Social Work Office of Research and Public Service (UT SWORPS) to provide administrative and logistical support to the Task Force.