Family

Parents of Disabled Children Engage in Disability Day on the Hill

Advocates and parents of disabled children met with Tennessee lawmakers on Feb. 12 to address concerns and request additional resources, The Tennessean reports. The event, dubbed Disability Day on the Hill, is intended to draw attention to problems facing these families in an effort to create a pathway to Medicaid for all children with long-term, debilitating disabilities. The group communicated concerns regarding access to TennCare for disabled children with intensive medical needs who may not qualify because of salary restrictions on parents, maintaining that even when most costs might be covered, high deductibles copays and other out-of-pocket expenses can be overwhelming. Members of the General Assembly pledged support for this initiative, with Rep. Sam Whitson, R-Franklin, saying he plans to submit legislation intended to address these concerns in the coming weeks. 

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Tomorrow: TBA Adoption Law Forum 2019

Don’t miss the TBA Adoption Law Forum 2019, which will be held at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville tomorrow, March 6. This year’s forum will feature information on recent changes to adoption law, including a case law update from Department of Children’s Services attorneys. We will also examine ICPC, host an interactive ethics panel and end the day with a networking reception, allowing you to meet TBA and section leadership. Lunch is included with registration. Don’t sleep on this opportunity to obtain CLE credit and build relationships with colleagues of a similar focus. Here are the key details:
 
When: Wednesday, March 6, registration at 11:30 a.m., CST
Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave. N., Nashville
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DHS Seeks Assistance With Summer Food Service Program

The Tennessee Department of Human Services will open the application process to those willing to assist with the agency’s Summer Food Service Program on Friday, Feb. 1. The program seeks to ensure that children 18 and younger who benefit from school meal programs have access to nutritious food during the summer months. Applications will be accepted from organizations, governmental entities, schools, religious entities, and non-profit residential camps interested in sponsoring the program and serving meals to children in their communities — with an emphasis on Bedford, Cheatham, Hickman, Humphreys, Moore, and Wayne Counties, which did not have sponsors last year. Applications will be accepted until May 1. You can learn more detailed information, including how to apply using this link.

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Michigan AG Seeks Settlement in Same-Sex Adoption Case

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel hopes to reach a settlement in the ongoing lawsuit regarding funding for faith-based adoption agencies that refuse to place foster children with same-sex couples, The Detroit News reports. Nessel — who is the state’s first openly gay attorney general — made concerns surrounding legislation passed in 2015 that allows agencies in the state to deny services that conflict with their beliefs an integral part of her platform, saying that she probably wouldn’t defend the law. The lawsuit was filed September of last year by the ACLU on behalf of two gay couples who were denied adoptions based on their sexuality. Federal District Judge Paul Borman granted a 30-day stay for the parties to come to an agreement in the case.

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DCS Requests Additional Funding for Children Affected by the Opioid Crisis

The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) on Monday asked Gov. Bill Lee for an additional $78.2 million in part to compensate for the uptick in children affected by the opioid crisis, The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. "Since 2016, there's been a 10.3 percent increase in the number of kids in foster care … I would say there are approximately 1,000 more children in custody, and this request will help pay and match the federal funds," said DCS Commissioner Jennifer Nichols. Lee appeared to agree with the assessment, recognizing that the surge in DCS intervention could stem from the rise of drug addiction in the state. The agency has requested $825.7 million for its 2019-2020 budget — including the $78.2 million that will be used for TennCare funding, adoption assistance programs and for the "Safe Baby Courts" program, among others.

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Ballad Health Provides New Details Regarding NICU Plans in East Tennessee

Ballad Health has issued a new response to the Tennessee Department of Health regarding questions about its proposed changes for the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in two east Tennessee hospitals, the Johnson City Press reports. In its response, Ballad provided specific details and statistics requested by former Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner. Under the proposed plan, newborns requiring Level III NICU services will be transported to Niswonger Children’s Hospital in Johnson City instead of current Level III hospital Holston Valley Medical Center, which will be downgraded to a Level I provider.

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Haslam Announces Juvenile Justice Reform Council Before Leaving Office

On his last full day in office, former Governor Bill Haslam announced an 18-member panel that will advocate for continued juvenile justice reform, The Tennessean reports. The new Juvenile Justice Reform Implementation Council — comprised of government officials, lawyers and law enforcement — is tasked with overseeing the state’s Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018 and making additional recommendations if necessary. Regarding the recent developments, Haslam said “this legislation was a positive first step and there is more work to be done with respect to juvenile justice and criminal justice reform in Tennessee… This Council will help ensure that reform is pursued in a responsible manner.” Gov. Bill Lee has said that he will continue to advance this cause by pursuing sentencing reform and improving re-entry programs for offenders.

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Knox County Volunteers Prepare for Census of Homeless Youth

Volunteers working with the Knoxville-Knox County Homeless Coalition will take a census on Thursday of homeless youth living in the community, The Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Groups will be onsite at several locations to perform the count, in an effort to determine adequate resources and needs of this population. Volunteers will also assist with information on finding jobs; mental-health counseling; help applying for food stamps and Social Security disability benefits; mentoring services; refugee services; and educational or after-school programming. Last year’s count concluded there was 116 youth between the ages of 12-24 in Knox County who were either homeless or "precariously housed."

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Shelby County Takes Steps to Address Disproportionate Minority Contact Issues in Juvenile Court

Shelby County leaders are spearheading an initiative to study and analyze data from its Juvenile Court regarding a disparity in contact with minority children, The Commercial Appeal reports. Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael and county Mayor Lee Harris have hired a national expert from the National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ) to assist in determining problem areas of inequality in hopes to address and overcome these obstacles. Harris lauded the move as "another step in creating more local oversight of these very important juvenile justice issues." According to its website, the NCJJ — a research division of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges — is the oldest juvenile justice research group in the United States. 

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Some Tennessee Counties Will See a Boost in Funding for Social Services Programs

Knox County will receive an 11 percent increase over last year’s budget in state funding for social services programs, The Knoxville News Sentinel reports. According to the Office of Legislative Budget Analysis’ county-by-county breakdown, the county will receive $1.9 billion 2018-19 fiscal year to support programs such as the Commission on Aging and Disability and the Department of Children’s Services, funding projects like the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) and Child and Family Management Grants. Knox received the largest percentage increase of Tennessee four largest counties, with Davidson seeing a four percent increase, Hamilton a six percent increase and Shelby a one percent increase.

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