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After another child death under DCFS watch, governor silent about leader he appointed

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BATON ROUGE - Governor John Bel Edwards' office has not responded to repeated requests for comment following the death of another child who succumbed to a fentanyl overdose after the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services failed to act in time.

The Governor appointed the leader of DCFS, Marketa Walters in 2016.

The governor's press office is typically very responsive to media requests. The latest controversy at DCFS has been different, and despite requests for a comment there has been silence after it was exposed that DCFS messed up again.

During a news conference Monday, DCFS Secretary Marketa Walters said an exodus of employees and a lack of staff have exacerbated their problems. Over the summer, WBRZ was first to expose that Mitchell Robinson III might still be alive if DCFS acted in time. Doctors notified the state three different times about the danger he was in after overdosing on fentanyl twice. His third overdose was deadly.

Latest week, Jahrei Paul overdosed on fentanyl and died. DCFS said it had received an anonymous complaint about the danger Paul was living in with his mother, though his mom was locked up in jail in Texas on marijuana charges at the time of his death. She told WBRZ last week, the child died while in the custody of his father.

"I was blown away Chris," State Representative Jason Hughes said. "I feel like the secretary handled it with a defiant tone... many constituents from around the state used the term 'arrogant,' and I have to agree with them."

Walters said she was in "lockstep" with the governor as it pertained to leading her agency.

"If the governor is indeed in lockstep with DCFS after this latest death, that is terrifying," Hughes said.

Hughes said he would like to see Edwards address the latest problem and fix it by replacing the leadership at DCFS.

"I'm pretty surprised the governor has been so silent," Hughes said. "I would urge him to make a public statement. We need to hear form the governor. This is an executive branch agency at the end of the day. The governor is our chief executive and we need to know where he stands. This is a great opportunity for him to reassure the citizens of Louisiana that every child's life matters."

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