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Tennessee's Joint Task Force on Children's Justice and
Child Sexual Abuse Policies and Procedures

pdf View an Adobe pdf version of the Policies and Procedures of the Joint Task Force

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. JOINT TASK FORCE ROLES
B. JOINT TASK FORCE PURPOSE
C. JOINT TASK FORCE MEMBERSHIP
D. JOINT TASK FORCE MEETINGS, MINUTES, AND DECISION-MAKING
E. JOINT TASK FORCE LEADERSHIP
F. JOINT TASK FORCE COMMITTEES AND COMMITTEE MEETINGS
G. REVISION OF JOINT TASK FORCE POLICIES AND PROCEDURES


A. JOINT TASK FORCE ROLES

Joint Task Force Name
The name of this task force is the Joint Task Force on Children's Justice and Child Sexual Abuse and is hereafter known as the JTF.

The Grantee Agency and JTF Liason
The Tennessee Department of Children's Services (DCS), the grant recipient of Children's Justice Act (CJA) funds, provides support to the JTF through a DCS Liaison and a JTF Coordinator. The DCS Liaison works with the Coordinator and the JTF members to ensure grant compliance is met.

JTF Coordinator
DCS has allocated grant funds to the University of Tennessee, College of Social Work Office of Research and Public Service (UT SWORPS) for the JTF Coordinator position. The JTF Coordinator provides administrative and logistical support to the JTF.


B. JOINT TASK FORCE PURPOSE

The JTF has federal and state mandates with individual, yet related, purposes, activities and reporting requirements.

The federal guidelines are:

  • 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 assisting States in developing, establishing and operating programs designed to improve: (1) the assessment and investigation of suspected child abuse and neglect cases, including cases of suspected child sexual abuse and exploitation, in a manner that limits additional trauma to the child and the child's family; (2) the assessment and investigation of cases of suspected child abuse-related fatalities and suspected child neglect-related fatalities; (3) the investigation and prosecution of cases of child abuse and neglect, including child sexual abuse and exploitation; and (4) the assessment and investigation of cases involving children with disabilities or serious health-related problems who are suspected victims of child abuse or neglect.
  • Through the CJA, DCS is required to establish a task force to implement recommendations in the following categories: (A) investigative, administrative, and judicial handling of cases of child abuse and neglect, particularly child sexual abuse and exploitation, as well as cases involving suspected child maltreatment related fatalities and cases involving a potential combination of jurisdictions, such as interstate, federal, state, and state-tribal, in a manner which reduces the additional trauma to the child victim and the victim's family and which also ensures procedural fairness to the accused; (B) Experimental, model and demonstration programs for testing innovative approaches and techniques which may improve the prompt and successful resolution of civil and criminal court proceedings or enhance the effectiveness of judicial and administrative action in child abuse and neglect cases, particularly child sexual abuse and exploitation cases, including the enhancement of performance of court-appointed attorneys and guardians ad litem for children, and which also ensure procedural fairness to the accused; and (C) Reform of state laws, ordinances, regulations, protocols and procedures to provide comprehensive protection for children from abuse, particularly sexual abuse and exploitation, while ensuring fairness to all affected persons.
  • The JTF will make these recommendations after making an assessment of the state's systems of the above listed categories every three (3) years.


The state guidelines are:

  • Tennessee Code Annotated 37-1-603 established a task force to develop a plan of action for "better coordination and integration of the goals, activities, and funding of DCS pertaining to the detection, intervention, prevention, and treatment of child sexual abuse in order to maximize staff and resources, including the effective utilization of licensure personnel in determining whether children are properly cared for and protected by the child care agencies licensed by the department of children's services or human services".
  • Additionally, the plan is required to include ways to 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.
  • The JTF is required to submit this plan every two (2) years to the members of the general assembly and the governor.


C. JOINT TASK FORCE MEMBERSHIP

Membership Requirements
The JTF also has both federal and state requirements for membership.

Federally required members include at least one (1) representative from each of the following categories: law enforcement community, criminal court judge, family court judge, prosecuting attorney, defense attorney, child advocate (attorney for children), Court Appointed Special Advocate/volunteer guardian ad litem (including a representative of the state guardian ad litem program), health professional, mental health professional, child protective service agency, individual experienced in working with children with disabilities, parent and representative of parent group, adult former victim of child abuse and/or neglect, and individuals experienced in working with homeless children and youths.

State required members include at least one (1) representative from each of the following categories: the Departments of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Children's Services, Education, Health and Human Services, the Commission on Children and Youth, a child abuse agency, a treatment resource, a local child service agency, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the district attorneys general conference, the Tennessee council of juvenile and family court judges and local law enforcement.

In addition, an employee of DCS will be appointed to sit on each of the JTF committees.

Total membership of the JTF will not exceed 50 members.

Appointments
The Commissioner of DCS will appoint all members to the JTF by their federal or state category.

Terms
Once appointed, JTF members will serve at the pleasure of the commissioner or until they no longer meet the requirements of their appointment (due to job or career change or failure to fully participate as a member), or voluntarily resign.

For good cause, the Executive Committee, by a majority vote, may recommend to the Commissioner of DCS that a member should no longer serve on the JTF.

Resignations
Resignations by JTF members must be submitted in writing to the JTF Coordinator with an effective date included.

Recruiting/Replacing Members
JTF members are encouraged to submit recommendations for potential replacements when members leave the JTF. Membership recommendations will be processed by the JTF Coordinator and submitted to DCS for approval.



D. JOINT TASK FORCE MEETINGS, MINUTES, AND DECISION-MAKING

Meetings
The JTF meets at least four (4) times each year, once each calendar-year quarter, and holds additional meetings as needed to support the work of the JTF.

The JTF meetings are open to the public and will meet all of the requirements of the Public Meetings Act (Tenn. Code Ann. 8-44-101 et seq).

The JTF meeting calendar for the upcoming year is developed at or before the last meeting of the preceding year.

Members are expected to attend a minimum of fifty percent (50%) of the regularly scheduled JTF meetings each calendar year to retain their membership. Members who are unable to attend a meeting are asked to notify the JTF Coordinator.

If a member is not able to attend a meeting, the member may send a representative or proxy to attend the meeting on his/her behalf.

Members who send a proxy or invite a visitor to lend expertise to a meeting are asked to notify the JTF Coordinator before the meeting.

Minutes
Minutes will be taken by the JTF Coordinator at all JTF meetings, and distributed to the Executive Committee for feedback. Meeting minutes will be voted on and approved by majority vote of JTF members present at the following meeting.

Decision Making by Voting
The JTF uses voting as its primary means of decision-making. All JTF votes are decided by a majority vote of those present at a scheduled meeting with advance notice having been given.

Members have the right to vote in JTF elections and on other decisions made by the JTF such as creating or dissolving committees or approving minutes, recommendations and any work completed under the JTF's name.



E. JOINT TASK FORCE LEADERSHIP

Executive Committee
An Executive Committee made up of two officers (President and Vice President) and five (5) committee chairs, all of whom are elected by a majority of members, lead the JTF.

Executive Committee Responsibilities, Election, and Terms of Service

Responsibilities
The Executive Committee ensures that the state plan and other required reports are completed and submitted by the JTF in a timely manner. The Executive Committee enlists the JTF members' assistance in forming committees and/or work groups to draft plans and reports and then to complete the final products.

In addition to the regularly scheduled JTF meetings, the Executive Committee may meet with DCS senior leadership staff to update them on the JTF and committees' activities or on their own to discuss issues that arise during the year.

The Officers and the JTF Coordinator work together to set agendas for the JTF meetings, preside at JTF and Executive Committee meetings, and provide follow up leadership when needed to complete JTF tasks.

Elections
The Executive Committee is elected for two (2)-year terms at a regular meeting of the JTF, or in the case of an Executive Committee member's resignation, as soon thereafter as convenient. During special elections due to an Executive Committee member's resignation, the replacement Executive Committee member will be elected to serve only the remainder of the resigning Executive Committee member's term.

JTF members may not serve in two (2) positions on the Executive Committee at the same time (i.e. both an officer and a committee chair).

The President will appoint a three (3) member ad hoc Nomination Committee prior to elections to solicit and review nominations for Executive Committee positions. The JTF Coordinator will support the ad hoc committee.

Terms of Service
The new Executive Committee members assume office at the first meeting following their election and hold the office until a successor is duly elected.

Executive Committee members are eligible for re-election for additional terms if they are willing to serve an additional term.



F. JOINT TASK FORCE COMMITTEES AND COMMITTEE MEETINGS

Committees and Committee Responsibilities
The JTF has five (5) committees. The current committees are:

  • Child Protective Investigation Team (CPIT) - This committee focuses on issues related to multi-disciplinary investigative teams and promotes training of all professionals involved in the investigation of severe child abuse and neglect cases, including those warranting criminal prosecutions. This committee also supports initiatives surrounding child abuse investigations, confidentiality, and improving the child protective system.
  • Court Improvement - This committee focuses on projects designed to improve judicial and administrative proceedings that involve allegations of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of children.
  • Prevention - This committee works with a wide range of community partners to assess communities' needs, address opportunities for improvement, and support strong family and community initiatives that aim to reduce child abuse and neglect.
  • Training and Education - This committee promotes professionalism and competency through initiatives that support issues of education pertaining to public child welfare. This committee also identifies resources and activities that will advance the development of training needs of children and families, mandated reporters and the general public related to child abuse and neglect and severe child abuse.
  • Treatment - This committee focuses on medical and mental health needs of children and youth such as the implications for vulnerable and low income families to access treatment. This committee has implemented strategies to prevent and identify mental health problems and has developed and identified resources to assist child welfare professionals and service providers with decision-making.

Each committee is responsible for developing recommendations associated with their subject area and completing action steps to ensure the committee's goals are met. Immediately prior to the regular election of officers and committee chairs, members will choose the committee on which they would like to serve for the following 2 years.

Committee Meetings
The committees meet at least four (4) times a year at the quarterly JTF meetings. Additional committee meetings may be scheduled at the request of the committee chair or members. The committee members are expected to attend a minimum of fifty (50%) percent of the regularly scheduled meetings each calendar year and actively participate in their committees' work.

Creating or Dissolving Committees
The JTF can create additional or dissolve current committees. If a member recommends that the committees be changed, the decision to create a new committee or dissolve a current committee will be made by a majority vote of the JTF.



G. REVISION OF THE JOINT TASK FORCE POLICIES AND PROCEDURES

Revisions
These policies and procedures may be revised by a majority vote of the JTF members.