Federal budget cuts could mean job cuts for Tennessee DCS offices

CLINTON, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Federal cutbacks may force the Tennessee Department of Children's Services to cut 160 jobs.

This comes at a time when some already question whether the department has enough resources.

No final decision has been reached yet, but the talk is creating concerns for children's advocates, including Tennessee's first lady.

When she became Tennessee's First Lady, Andrea Conte's goal was to see a Children's Advocacy Center open in every one of the state's 95 counties. Thursday, as Anderson's County's DCS celebrated a grand opening, the first lady joined in a mile-long walk for children. But despite the celebration, there is another threat that could greatly reduce the state's ability to help children. There may be huge job cuts at the Department of Children's Services.

Conte says, "I don't know and no one really knows what is going to happen with that. I can tell you yes, we're all concerned."

Jim Hackworth, State Representative says, "I think the numbers say that about 160 people perhaps would be laid off, and that devastates the program."

The cuts, if they come, would be the result of federal cutbacks. Washington may reduce funding by 73-million dollars next year. How big is the potential impact? .In Anderson County alone, the District Attorney General says each year there are 1,200 reported cases of physical or sexual child abuse.

Dave Clark, District Attorney General says, "That number to me is staggering and unaceptable. I think that if people in Tennessee and Anderson County and when they learn that the problem is that widespread, they are going to make sure something is done about it."

Those who see the effects of child abuse first hand say the potential implications could reach across the generations.

Anderson County Pediatrician, Dr. Frances Pisano says, "We know that violent childhoods breed violent adults, so until we get abuse under control, it's one of the biggest problems in society right now."

Conte says, "I think it's a matter of priorities. For me, this is a huge priority that we continue to fund these services for children."

Tennessee's first lady says she traveled to Washington last week to meet with Tennessee's congressional delegation.

She says they seem committed to doing what they can to avoid the cuts.

If job cuts do come, the Department of Children's Services says they would affect administrators rather than case workers.

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