State lawmakers told the interim commissioner of the embattled Department of Children's Services that they want to be kept abreast of the agency's internal operations.
Jim Henry spoke before the Senate Health and Welfare Committee on Wednesday, saying he is interested in change and that he will protect children at any cost.
Henry replaces Kate O'Day, who resigned the day before under scrutiny of how her agency handled the cases of children who were investigated as possible victims of abuse and neglect, then later died.
State Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, said lawmakers would like to have more meetings with agency officials and be made aware of their challenges so they can help them.
Henry said he will never let financial considerations influence where children are placed.
"Being in an institution or group home 100 miles away is not normal. And normalcy is what we want and permanence is what we want. But we're not going to compromise on that, I assure you," Henry said.
"I'm at the end of my career. Hopefully, what we do in the next three years is going to have a big impact on the way I feel about myself, and I'm certainly not going to compromise myself or the kids in the state because of financial considerations."
Meanwhile, the fight continues over DCS records of children who died during or after DCS contact since 2009. The agency said it wants $55,000 to release the death records of nearly 200 children, and Gov. Bill Haslam said it's a fair price that includes everything from an estimated 7,000 miles in travel to 600 rolls of White-Out.
"We can't ship those records. Those are personal records," Haslam said.
Henry is expected to meet again with lawmakers as early as March and present a detailed report of the agency's problems.
Henry will serve as interim until Haslam appoints a new commissioner. He is also serving as commissioner for the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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