Despite calls for her resignation, Governor backs DCFS leader
BATON ROUGE- Despite growing calls for DCFS Secretary Marketa Walters to step down amid a number of problems at the agency she oversees, Governor John Bel Edwards told reporters Wednesday he stands behind her and has confidence in the job she's doing.
"The day that is no longer the case, everyone will know," Edwards said.
Walters performance has been the focus of numerous hearings at the Louisiana State Capitol that first commenced last year. In November, lawmakers gathered to talk about a different case that involved a child who was allegedly raped for a decade. At the hearings, information came out that DCFS had known for years, but did not act.
"Every person that investigated this matter where it went through seven investigations, every agency needs to be investigated for their protocol and procedure and how they dropped the ball," Senator Katrina Jackson said last year.
Fast forward ten months and the same meetings are happening once again with different politicians echoing similar sentiments.
"Honestly, I have not been satisfied thus far with the responses from DCFS," Rep. Jason Hughes said. "What I continue to hear is excuses. I have not heard innovation. I have not seen leadership from the secretary."
Hughes is demanding a leadership change at the agency, as the agency head attempted to address the failures and what she's done. WBRZ reported DCFS was made aware three different times that a toddler had overdosed on drugs before the child overdosed and died in June. The WBRZ Investigative Unit's also reported there's a criminal investigation into a foster parent who allegedly sexually assaulted several of his foster kids.
Wednesday afternoon, Hughes said he plans to expose the agency by releasing documents about DCFS failures to Governor Edwards.
I will begin releasing emails and letters that I have received & have sounded the alarm about since 2020 regarding @LouisianaDCFS. I look forward to working with @LouisianaGov to address the systemic issues plaguing the agency that @DCFSSecretary refuses to publicly acknowledge.— Jason Hughes (@RepJasonHughes) September 7, 2022
The governor said failures are being addressed with employees who were reassigned and attempts to increase staffing. Lawmakers remain skeptical with some wondering if the governor or his administration will be able to get anything done in 18 months before he leaves office.
"I reject that," Edwards said. "What we are seeing at DCFS, first of all let me go back, we had some failures that I don't make excuses for. "they have resulted in changes in policies and procedures and people who are no longer there. When we look at the challenges going there, we can better address to alleviate the situation so things don't happen again. It relates to shortage of staff."
The governor added today they have increased funding for DCFS. They are currently working with civil service to come up with ways to hire people and retain them at an agency that is tasked with protecting children.