Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Potter, Michael

Committee Member

Baker, Leslie

Committee Member

Rush, Christine

Committee Member

Shoup, Brian

Committee Member

Cistrunk, Kenya

Other Advisors or Committee Members

Travis, Rick

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Public Policy and Administration

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


College of Arts and Sciences


College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


Department of Political Science and Public Administration


Richard C. Adkerson School of Accountancy


Child welfare is constantly labeled as “failure- riddled” and “scandalous” with high rates of children who are in an endless cycle of removal, reunification, and removal. Some children have lifelong abuse ramifications due to a longstanding history of childhood abuse. Other children, unfortunately, pay the ultimate price and die. State Child Welfare entities are working within their confines and become bound by federal and state statutes and laws. While media and citizen onlookers criticize and blame the state, workers, and families, the field suffers from a lack of better offers. This dissertation seeks to use the state of Tennessee as a case study to look at the why child welfare policy fails and is it situational by state. Findings indicate that there is no linear correlation for funding and rates of child abuse in states and that the policies implemented are used because of the “fail better” than other policy options. Tennessee is uniquely situated because, in the past 20 years, it has weathered two major scandals in child welfare.