Caseloads are high and the turnover rate is high in the Clarksville office of the Department of Children Services. Former workers say harassment and double standards have made it a chaotic and unfriendly workplace.

NASHVILLE, TN – Angel Miller, a regional director in the Upper Cumberland Region of the Department of Children’s Services (DCS), targeted several longtime employees, suspended three, terminated three, one twice, and pressured four others to resign—all in the past two years.

Miller had no comment.

Angel Miller is the Regional Investigations Director in the Upper Cumberland Region of the Department of Children Services.

Sarah Shepherd was a team leader in the Clarksville office who resigned in 2020. “I left because she (Karmen Davis) wouldn’t stop trying to get me to discipline people,” Shepherd said.

Miller hired Davis in late 2019 and she quickly became Miller’s confidante and right hand. ”Karmen Davis is basically Angel’s snitch and she lies a lot, “ said Autumn Moultry. Moultry was a Case Manager 4 supervisor with 18 years on the job. Miller fired her—twice.

Melanie Campbell was a lead investigator who worked for DCS from 2014-2020. Miller fired her in 2020. Campbell worked in Clarksville. At the time, Campbell had 70 cases that meant she was required to visit about 200 children at least once a month. Campbell wasn’t fired for her job performance but for gross misconduct.

Campbell failed to file a report about one of her clients, a teen-ager who later committed suicide. Miller put the blame on Campbell.

Both Campbell and Moultry appealed their terminations. At least five others appealed their suspensions or terminations between 2019-2021. The state employees’ union, TSEA, represents disciplined workers during the 3-level appeals process.

“Nobody wins at the first two levels because it’s all DCS people who hear the case,” Moultry said. But an independent panel presides over the third level.

Moultry said excessive caseloads and management’s bad attitude really wore her out. “It never used to be like that. The first eight 8 years we enjoyed our jobs,” she said. But now people work overtime, bring work home, but still can’t keep up with the number of cases.

“You’re protecting everybody else’s kids but don’t have time for your own,” she said.

One worker said case counts in Davidson County are up to 50 and team leaders have had to take some of them over. DCS leadership hasn’t effectively addressed the issue. (See Toxic Workplace)

Autumn Moultry Fired

Moultry’s problems started one Wednesday in May 2019 when she filled in for a worker who was in the hospital. The case was in Robertson County and the judge was a stickler. Moultrie didn’t have a report that the court liaison, Melissa Upchurch, was supposed to have gotten the previous week.

“They waited until I got to court to tell me it was missing,” Moultry said. The DCS attorney on the case, Julie Wooten, pretended she didn’t know anything about it. “She tried to throw me under the bus,” Moultry said.

Both Upchurch and Wooten testified against Moultry at her appeal hearing. They are in Miller’s inner circle. Miller also testified. An office email was their key evidence against Moultry. Miller claimed Moultry lied to the judge about it and fired her for it.

As we reported last week, an “us versus them” dynamic has created a hostile work environment in DCS offices around the state. The Tribune has interviewed workers in three different regions and all reported they endured petty vindictive managers who played favorites and picked on people they didn’t like.

Autumn Moultry was an investigations supervisor with 18 years experience. She said Miller bullied and picked on her for months.

Miller and her flunkies were in the hearing room for Round 3. Moultry said her resolve began to waver. “These people were saying terrible things about me and I thought ‘Am I this really bad person who did all these horrible things?’ “

According to Miller, the judge asked Moultry if she read all her emails. Moultry answered “Yes.” But Miller wasn’t in the courtroom that day and that’s not what the judge asked.

“Play the tape,” Moultry said. ”Play the tape.” The judge asked Moultry if she checked her emails, not if she read them all. The court recording proved Moultry had not committed perjury.

A member of the hearing board noted that the recipients of the “smoking gun’ email were other people involved in that case, not Moultry, who had been cc-ed. In short, the email was a pretext.

Both Moultry and Campbell won their jobs back and Moultry collected $30,000 in back pay. The harassment didn’t stop. The unfair treatment continued for 6 months. Then Miller fired Moultry again in August 2020.

Moultry, Campbell, and other case managers were team players, dedicated to the job and to each other, but they weren’t in the in-crowd. When they left, needy children lost their devoted advocates and protectors.

A House Divided

Although morale is low at DCS, it is likely rooted in organizational changes from the top. DCS has four main divisions: child safety, child programs, child health, and juvenile justice. In 2013, The Office of Child Safety was divided into three branches: assessments, investigations, and training.

“Prior to 2013 everybody worked for DCS under the same umbrella,” said James Snodgrass, an investigations team leader and trainer who worked at DCS from 2007-2021.

Snodgrass said regional investigative directors (RID) were hired when investigations were put in the Office of Child Safety. They hired their team coordinators and lead investigators. “They developed a separate chain of command for investigations,” Snodgrass said.

Regional administrators took on the assessment load, which had fewer and less critical cases. A turf war broke out between the old guard who feared losing control and a new bunch of managers. Battles over space and resources ensued. Snodgrass described it as a tug of war. “Regional administrators wanted the Office of Child Safety to fail,” he said.

The 2013 reorganization supplanted Child Protective Services (CPS). The only people whose jobs still have a CPS designation are the CPS directors in each of DCS’s 13 regional offices. If DCS were a railroad, CPS directors would be spur lines that no longer serve any useful purpose.

Too many DCS mid-level bureaucrats have become obsessed with discipline and punishment, vindictively wielding their power over workers with exemplary records.

In 2008 DCS hired Vanderbilt researchers to study why retention in the DCS Clarksville office was so bad. “Basically, they decided it was a leadership issue,“ Snodgrass said.

James Snodgrass got good evaluations and received raises and bonuses for his job performance during his 14 years at DCS. “They questioned my integrity,” he told the Tribune. Snodgrass resigned last year.

“If you have a supervisor hiding out in their car, ghosting their workers when they need guidance, not monitoring their people, they are not doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” he said.

Office hours are from 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. “But they’re sitting in their car with their laptops and not answering their phone calls. They only come into the office when they have to recharge their laptops,” Snodgrass said.

From 2016-2020 Snodgrass was a special response team investigator. He travelled widely, visiting different regions to help out with their heavy caseloads. Sometimes he would take over cases from workers who were on medical leave or who had been suspended.

He was not privy to the circumstance surrounding a worker’s absence, but in hindsight, he says his role as a “fixer” provided cover for managers who had created their own predicament and were scapegoating employees to take the blame.

When COVID hit in 2020, Snodgrass said the special response teams went “Poof!” and he was reassigned to the Clarksville office.

“The people who were in charge in 2008 are still in charge in 2021 and nothing has changed,” he said.

 

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22 Comments

  1. The Leadership for the Dickson County Cluster (includes Stewart, Houston & Humphries County) is just as bad. TL Harpy bullied and tormented whoever she wanted for no reason other than her personal dislike or for her own power trip. She smirked after one worker had an emotional breakdown from being psychologically tortured to the point of her having suicidal ideations. She made young workers break down and cry before leaving. She put lives of workers at risk with mandatory overtime (up to 36 hours straight) and issued disciplinary actions against anyone who objected. She was supported by all upper management up to the RA. She refused to close cases of workers who stood up to her. I had as high as 80 cases (putting lives of children at risk). Workers had to take sick leave, FMLA or quit in effort to survive (some worked up to the day they died from stress related illness. I took early retirement for my own physical and mental health after several grievances went unresolved. She had dozens of grievances filed against her and was only suspended with pay on one to my knowledge. Because I filed many complaints against her, she even sabotaged a therapist position I had after leaving (with an Agency who is contracted by DCS). These tyrant leaders only promote either others like them or the weak submissive workers who ignore the bullying.

    1. Traveling on down to Dickson and Waverly. You will find good Ole Gail Tarpy. Gail has weathered the Storm with her Racist, Homophophic and Gender remarks. She has run off experienced African Americans. Go figure the comment above speaks about Camille Legins and she was Gail’s Supervisor. Gail also Supervised Susan Jackson who would use Racial Slurs in meetings and at the office.. Talk about nuts not falling to far from the tree.

      Gail is deep-rooted in the community, go pull cases with her family members and you will see she closed those cases herself versus allowing another Region to work and close the cases. How do you remain transparent with a practice such as this?

      Look at the multiple complaints over the years that have been washed down the drain. Yet Gail still sits high on her horse and African Americans come and go. Pull the employment data over the last 15 years and we are sure you will see the trend.

    2. My daughter has been trying for 6 months to get ahold of someone at DCS because her daughter’s father filed something at court saying my daughter was unfit and for 6 months she can only see her daughter on supervise visits when the father feels like it since DCS wouldn’t answer her many calls she took it apon herself to take classes the judge wanted DCS to make her take she went to court today DCS didn’t show up even though the judge had ordered them to be there he then rescheduled court till the end of January so hopefully DCS will show up so now we miss all the holidays my daughter needs an attorney but they are so expensive so when DCS was first brought up we thought it was a good idea thought they would help we wanted a child advocate now we don’t know what to do it’s a shame I miss my granddaughter I live in an another state and the father won’t let my granddaughter call me or her mom he is not a good person we had so much hope that DCS would help not my daughter has nothing

  2. Absolutely agree my daughter had to deal with Clarksville dcs after the birth of my grandson. They put her through hell for absolutely no reason.

    1. They are getting exposed bit by bit in Clarksville. There is a crew led by Heather Jeffries. That crew includes Twylla Correa, Annakiya Sauda,Jacqueline Hillman and Jaylon Long. They lie in incarcerate children in mental institutions. The seem to partner with private companies to funnel state DCS money to private hospitals. They’ve made people’s lives miserable.

  3. DVS goes through their employees like Wal-Mart. They disrespect people for showing they want best for a child and try to use too much control on their own. Not any team work just sharks in the water.

  4. This DCS program has been a joke for many years. I have been raising my grandchild den for 16 years. Their parents major drug addicts. Through the years they made me feel like the criminal. So one day o put a stop to it. Went to court and asked the judge to dismiss them. The children were safe . Then about a year ago had problems with one child asked DCS for help. Nobody in this agency can not male any decissions with maling a phome call to have a decission made. If you are needing really big tome help well god bless hope they survive. They are doing very little. Myself and their other grandmother have done all the work. This agency needs to be really looked at , make a plan , shut it down and restart it for the sole purpose of what it was intended to do.

  5. This is a really sad reflection of what this world has come to today. Jesus said Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. Matthew 19:14.

  6. The big question for me is if this is how they are treating each other, what makes anyone feel like they are qualified to assess how parents are doing? This situation puts the children of Tennessee in terrible danger. I agree with Lucy, let’s shut the whole thing down and figure out how to send support to grandma squads instead. The state is clearly not qualified to raise our children or keep them safe.

  7. These are “grown adults”? Felt like I just read a horrible reality tv script but all the innocent children lose in the end. God help us.

  8. This is so BAD!! SHAME ON EVERYONE INVOLVED!! THE STATE, THE WORKERS, PARENTS, AND JUDGES!! TAKE A STAND!!

    1. This is so BAD!! SHAME ON EVERYONE INVOLVED!! THE STATE, THE WORKERS, PARENTS, AND JUDGES!! TAKE A STAND!!

  9. There is also a problem with the way the DCS makes a derision about the children. They need to remember there is two sides to every story. I understand they have a lot of work. But each case needs to be done correctly no matter how long it takes. ( I have contacted DHS on a case that has not been talked care of properly and they want talk to me.). When it involves children, yes you need to listen and investigate all sides.
    I read the story about you employee problem. It sounds like your upper management l
    needs to learn how to treat the employees and not have favorites.

  10. I’m so thankful that my children are grown. This entire situation is really upsetting. My heart is with these poor kids who are not falling into the cracks but being pushed into the cracks. These arrogant people in charge of DCS need to be fired ASAP!! The good workers have either been fired or have resigned. Get rid of those still in charge and bring back those workers who have either been fired or resigned but who truly cared about the kids and their families.

  11. We dealt with DCS for years with my stepchildren, we lived in OH and had to try to sort things from a distance. WHAT A LOAD OF CRAP These creative people come up with in order to pass the buck and not do their jobs! I could tell the caseworkers tried and did care. I had No Idea the supervisory staff was so inept and rediculous. I agree pay a grandma squad and the “proven effective” employees…get rid of UPPER MANAGEMENT AND THEIR CRONIES!

  12. I worked as a CPSI in Davidson County for 5 years.
    DCS is the most dysfunctional organizations I have worked in 40 years of working with Children. I worked hard, smart and rested on everyone with respect and honesty. I had respect from parents, youth service detectives, psychologist, attorneys, judges, fellow CPSI’s and my immediate supervisors; however, I got no respect from those in upper management and the Central Office because they were only concerned about making themself look good and anybody that disagreed with their Machiavellian tactics were targeted and became collateral damage.
    I found a great job in another agency and transferred out of DCS. I truly helped many children; however, my biggest accomplishment was to survive Angel Miller’s reign of terror in Davidson without a single disciplinary action/reprimand in 5 years.

    The Governor needs to Cleam house.

  13. I maybe they should get rid of the leads & managers in charge & replace them with people who actually cares about their employees & the kids of TN. When u have dirty people in office the business will never go right. How about cleaning house & making the job workable & lifting loads off of the employees that work their asses off to keep these children safe. I’m sick of the state letting certain people run over everybody then all the workers decide to leave or now they can’t get anyone to stay on the job! How are you going to be “DCS” with no one u can trust or anybody that can properly handle children? FIX IT PLEASE TENNESSEE!!!!

  14. It’s all across the state. Recently put my notice in due to the toxic & hostile environment. You get yelled at, hung-up on, talked to like a dog, told that it doesn’t matter if you’re at lunch you are to answer that phone even if you have to go talk in the bathroom, gaslighted constantly, and it doesn’t matter what you do because they won’t change anything. Just love being told “chop chop” or “you know you’re still on probation, right” (as an innuendo) because I said “okay” instead of arguing back [which I was always accused of ‘not caring’ because I would say ‘yes ma’am’ or ‘okay’ instead of arguing because someone has to act like an adult here]. Constant lies & changing the story to save their own ass because THEY KNOW THEY’RE WRONG. The ‘Buddy System’ sure pays-off with the supervisors. Don’t get sick because they’ll retaliate & make you pay for the work they had to do while you were out… well for some, that is. Leave is a joke because you’re constantly bothered when you’re trying to recover or vacation. I could go on and on, but there’s no point. Leaving is best when your superiors place work before your own families & tell you to “thicken your skin” & deal with it. My kid needs their parent, too.

  15. In the Upper Cumberland area you will find Supervisor Mary Beth Williams who is best friends with her investigator Brandi Sims. They have a game on who can remove the most children. They lie on people and remove children for anything they can drum up just for stats. Janes Payne the Investigation Coordinator thinks it’s funny and allows this to happen. DCS is not for families or children it’s about money and stats.

  16. Does anyone know where Sara Shepherd went to work when she left there? I really need to contact her again, thank you! -Stephen Manners, Army veteran & father

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