DCFS discusses 7 new strategies to prevent overlooked cases in the future
BATON ROUGE - The Department of Children and Family Services was back before state lawmakers who demanded answers after the agency's recent string of failures.
"All of us are working on the same goal — to ensure that never happens again," Sen. Regina Barrow (D) said.
The death of two-year-old Mitchell Robinson is just one case that put the shortcomings of DCFS in the spotlight in recent months. The toddler died of a fentanyl overdose in June. That happened even after caseworkers for DCFS were made aware of the child's two prior overdoses. It was just one case that made headlines and raised concerns about how the agency is run.
On Thursday, state lawmakers called in the leaders to see what, if anything, has changed since then.
"I think they have looked back at their own procedural gaps, and hopefully that will take care of some of the concerns we have seen," Sen. Beth Mizell (R) said.
Agency leaders said they have rewritten the rules on how to handle reports of neglect and abuse. Not all lawmakers were sold on the claims that everything is fixed. That led to pushback from the agency, which says it's putting more eyes on any reports coming in.
Leaders also said they've done everything they can with the staff they have.
"If there's anything else we could do, I would have done it," Rhenda Hodnett, Assistant Secretary of Child Welfare, said.
DCFS leaders say they're trying to hire to fill vacancies and are increasing pay for jobs they say come with a lot of responsibility and stress.
"That's going to be a game changer for a lot of concerns they have. They have started job fairs, started implementations of more aggressive ways to fill the jobs," Mizell said.
Overall, DCFS presented seven strategies over three hours that they say will bring about necessary changes.
"I think it was a hopeful meeting. I believe everyone at that table on the senate side, knows we need to watch closely at the implementations at those recommendations," Mizell said.
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