published Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Jim Henry named permanent head of Tennessee Children’s Services department

NASHVILLE — Gov. Bill Haslam today named Jim Henry as the permanent head of the state’s troubled Department of Children’s Services.

Henry has been working as acting commissioner after the abrupt departure in February of then-Commissioner Kate O’Day, whose department has been engulfed in controversies over inadequate protections for children, children’s deaths and questions about how investigations have been handled.

Henry, a former state lawmaker, already was commissioner of the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and has been holding down a dual role at Children’s Services as well as Intellectual and Development Disabilities, working to bring order back to DCS operations.

The governor today also named Debra Payne as the new commissioner of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Payne is a department veteran and has been serving as deputy commissioner of program operations.

Henry said in a news release that Children’s Services has “taken important steps ... and we will continue to strengthen our processes and policies as well as continue to improve the department as a whole.”

Haslam said “these two departments handle some of the state’s most difficult work concerning our most vulnerable citizens,” Haslam said in a news release. “I want to thank Debbie for taking on this new role in such a young department. Her experience and hard work will continue to serve the state of Tennessee very well.”

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