A passel of new laws affecting the protection of children went into effect July 1 in Tennessee, including one that would increase the penalty for knowingly exposing children to dangerous drugs and others dealing with human trafficking and child care.
Senate Bill 1530, which passed both houses unanimously and was signed by Gov. Bill Lee (R), would make it a crime to knowingly allow a child to be in a building where they might be able to get their hands on cocaine, methamphetamine or fentanyl. Doing so could constitute “severe child abuse” under the state’s child welfare laws, and parental rights could be terminated.
Another law, SB 1591, levies harsh penalties on anyone who puts a kid in “imminent” danger of death, bodily injury or physical or mental impairment. Offenders could now be charged with a high misdemeanor bringing up to nearly a year in prison, but if the child is under 9 years old, then it would be a felony that could carry two to 12 years in prison.
SB 214 would require the police to notify the Department of Children’s Services when a minor is taken into custody on suspected prostitution charges. The children’s agency would then have to find a safe place for the minor to go to get recovery services.
Under SB 749, the Department of Human Services would, among other provisions, assess and rate licensed child care agencies and publish a “report card” to which parents and guardians could refer to compare the quality of programs they might consider.
For a more complete summary of Tennessee’s legislative changes affecting children, see this report by WKRN News in Nashville.