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How does DCS handle Child Abuse Reports? Death of Kadaris Maddox raises questions for state agency

Dawn Maddox

CLARKSVILLE, TN (CLARKSVILLE NOW) – The July 6 death of 14-year-old Kadaris Maddox, under investigation by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, has raised questions about how that state agency investigates and monitors cases.

Kadaris, who was wheelchair-bound and speech impaired, was found dead in the home of his mother, Cheyenne Maddox. Maddox was charged with five counts of child abuse and neglect because of the condition of the home. Autopsy results are pending, and no homicide charges have been filed.

In response to a Clarksville Now article, several people said they had called the DCS Child Abuse Hotline, and they expressed frustration that not enough was done.

Carla Aaron, deputy commissioner for the Tennessee Office of Child Safety, said she couldn’t speak specifically about the Kadaris Maddox case. But she did give some perspective on what happens when a referral is made to the CPS Hotline.

When a complaint is made

“When a call is made to the child abuse hotline, all information is gathered. They go through a set of questions and all of that (information) is documented and put into the system,” she said.

Aaron said case managers put the information in what they call a decision tree. “This helps us determine if we are going to assign the case to a (case manager) and what the response time would be,” she said, noting response times are categorized as Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3.

If there are bruises or marks, or if the child is still with the alleged perpetrator, they escalate the case, she said.
“We interview the child, see the home environment, we contact the person who made the referral and 0ther people that have information,” she said. “That could be teachers, neighbors, and healthcare providers. … We also talk to siblings and other household members.”

Aaron said cases can end in several  ways. “It could be closed for lack of evidence, (or) parents could be referred to parenting classes or mental health services,” she said.

“In cases of a child’s death or sex abuse, we collaborate with DHS (the Department of Human Services) and law enforcement,” she said.

DCS staffing shortage

Just like most job markets, Tennessee Office of Child Safety is dealing with an employee shortage.

“We try to average 20 cases per case manager … but we have exceeded (that),” she said.

Montgomery County is currently staffed with 25 case managers, when they should have 36, she said. They are struggling with 11 vacancies.

“We received 2,266 CPS referrals in 2021, and there are currently 274 open CPS cases,” she said.

In an effort to try to recruit new case workers to The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, Aaron said, they are doing something that has never been allowed before.

“We are hiring part-time employees to help manage the caseload,” she said. “The requirement is to have a bachelor’s degree.”

Cases take time

Aaron said it takes approximately 60 days for an investigation to run its course, or up to 90 days if coordination with law enforcement is involved.

For families with cases that are not immediately dismissed, Child Protective Services has another team called Family Support Services. “This is for long-term monitoring,” she said.
“The families may be referred because of mental health issues, or substance abuse issues,” she said. “That way someone is watching, on a different level of management. We utilize this a lot,” she said.

If you suspect child abuse or neglect in Tennessee, call the DCS Child Abuse Hotline, 877-237-0004.

Adria Hyde

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