Review of DCFS welcomed by all after discovery of malnourished teen
BATON ROUGE- Allegations are swirling that the Louisiana Department of Children and Family services may have ignored more cases, and the government agency is working to clear the air.
Tuesday, State Representative Alfred Williams announced he has been contacted by fifteen people who feel their complaints to DCFS dealing with child welfare were ignored. Williams began a campaign to right what he believes are serious issues at the state agency following a WBRZ report last week about a 15-year-old, malnourished teen who was rescued from deplorable conditions by police in Baton Rouge. The child's mother was arrested and her family members told reporter Brett Buffington, they complained to the state but felt their complaints went nowhere.
"The children in this community don't have time for them to move at the pace they're moving, so other people need to step in.," said Williams Tuesday.
"Since my appearance on WBRZ, over 15 individuals have contacted my district office to share their experiences with DCFS. Also, at least three employees have contacted us to share their concerns with this agency," Williams wrote in a letter to the governor, calling for an investigation into the department.
Williams spoke on camera after submitting his letter.
"Evidently something is falling short," Williams said. "You can not wait until a person dies, you can not wait until a person is neglected like [the malnourished teen] to address you policies."
After Williams talked to media outlets, the DCFS secretary spoke separately.
"I would certainly ask that anyone who has made [statements about being ignored] to Representative Williams, that they either give him permission to give that to me, or they contact me personally," Secretary Susan Sonnier said.
Williams said workers told him they are pressured to quickly close open cases at what described as "an unrealistic and alarming rate." DCFS said cases are expected to be closed within 60 days to ensure the department is responding quickly to all reports and protecting at-risk children.
The governors office said reviews are planned for the department.
"We will continue to work closely with DCFS to ensure that we are doing all we can to protect our most vulnerable children," the governor's office said. "We will review the information to ensure that the proper protocols are in place and are being followed."
"DCFS has continual external review of it's policies and practices for child welfare from both the federal government and the Council on Accreditation, responsible for accrediting Child Welfare organizations nationally and internationally. We will be working with DCFS to assemble a team of national experts to conduct an additional review of all Child Welfare activities to identify any further recommendations to ensure the safety of children."
Sonnier said she welcomes outside attention and is not concerned about the request for a review of the department.
"I've welcomed that. If there are things that we need to be doing, I want to do them."