Leavell-Rice said she wanted to meet representatives of local agencies and discuss what is available through her office. She was introduced by Lori Jolly-Julian of the Department of Children Services.
“We’re an advocate, working with the Legislature and state representatives,” said Leavell-Rice. “Members of my division go up on Capitol Hill, to the Legislative Plaza.”
She said the department’s primary responsibility is to discuss issues which may affect the children of Tennessee.
“One thing we’ve been doing is to support bills which keep our young children from being prostituted,” she said of the ongoing fight against human trafficking.
Leavell-Rice, who previously worked for the Department of Children’s Services, said one of the responsibilities of state officials is to monitor foster children.
She talked about the Department of Children’s Services and how they go about monitoring foster children in the area. “They talked with them and asked if everything is going well,” she said.
The state official said it is true that minority children are more apt to be confined (in faster care). “This is true all over the U.S,.,” she said. “We’re trying to come up with how to eliminate this problem.”
Leavell-Rice said her staff monitors children who are incarcerated at the Bradley County Justice Center on status offenses. She emphasized that this is difficult, since some of the charges would not be filed against an adult, such as possession of tobacco or alcohol and even making excessive noise.
“We want to know how we can keep these things from happening,” she said. “These are just some of the things we are looking at.”
She said with foster children they are continually looking for children who deserve a “second look,” after being returned to state custody. “We attempt to find out why (they were returned),” she said.
Addressing Community Advisory Board members, Leavell-Rice emphasized that “almost” everyone has something to do with children. “We need to find out how we can make it safer for children,” she emphasized
“It is not only these children (who may be in local or state custody), it can also affect our own children and grandchildren as well,” she said.
Another goal of her visit to Cleveland was to make a plea for some assistance. “We have a Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth council in south Cleveland,” she said. “The only thing is, we have no members on the council.”
Leavell-Rice hopes to solicit some community members to the council, to look at providing programs and services to youth. Anyone wanting more information can call Leavell-Rice at (423) 634-6210.