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DCS says foster case is 'shocking'

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Old June 17th 08, 09:15 PM posted to alt.support.child-protective-services,alt.support.foster-parents,alt.dads-rights.unmoderated,alt.parenting.spanking
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Default DCS says foster case is 'shocking'

DCS says foster case is 'shocking'

Monday, June 16, 2008
By Brian Mosely


A foster mother charged with having sex with a teenager in her care is
scheduled to appear in court late next month.

Meanwhile, the Tennessee Department of Children's Services is continuing
to look into the case, which a spokesman termed "shocking to us all."

Jennifer McWhirter of Bell Buckle will appear in Bedford County General
Sessions Court July 30. She is represented by attorney Jeff Seckler.

She has been charged with three counts of statutory rape by an authority
figure and one count of criminal responsibility for facilitation of a
felony. She is currently free on $11,000 bond.

McWhirter, who is the foster care coordinator for the Center for Family
Development, is currently on administrative leave from her position.

The count of criminal responsibility for facilitation of a felony stems
from the allegation that McWhirter was aware of a relationship between
foster mother Alea Rhea Rippy and the juvenile.

Rippy pleaded guilty last week to three counts of statutory rape and
agreed to serve 6 months in jail, followed by three years of community

DCS Communications Director Rob Johnson told the Times-Gazette that when
the Rippy case came to light, the department's Special Investigation
Unit (SIU) began to look into the allegations.

The SIU investigates allegations involving foster homes, group homes,
day care centers, Sunday schools and public schools.

At the time, the investigators found "no indication" that McWhirter had
been involved in any of the crimes that Rippy pled guilty to last week,
Johnson said.

But as soon as DCS learned of the arrest of McWhirter, "people reacted,
including the SIU," he said. "As soon as we knew, we acted very quickly."

All foster parents go through extensive background checks, Johnson said,
including fingerprint checks, criminal searches by the Tennessee Bureau
of Investigations, and checks of the National Crime Information Center,
which is a computerized index of criminal justice information.

Foster parents are also required to undergo 30 hours of training.
McWhirter was thought of highly by members of the Center for Family
Development and people at DCS as well, Johnson said, which made the case
"such a shock."

"These are very unusual circumstances," he said. "(She) was clearly
trained and passed the background check."

Last week, Detective Lt. Becky Hord of the Bedford County Sheriff's
Department said law enforcement had asked DCS to remove the 17-year-old
alleged victim from McWhirter's care some months ago and claimed that
nothing was done in response to the allegations.

Johnson said that to take a child from a foster home would be very
disruptive, and that there has to be credible evidence of wrongdoing
before such an action is taken.

"As soon as we had something credible," Johnson said, referring to the
charges brought against McWhirter, "we moved." The teenage boy in
question has since been removed from the home.

Johnson added that the investigation into both cases involving the two
foster mothers is continuing.

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