BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) faced another round of questioning by the legislature Tuesday as they look for answers to why children may not be getting proper care and protection.

DCFS said they are already making many changes to policies to deal with the issues that have recently come to light from child deaths to alleged sexual abuse from caregivers

Despite these policy changes, a former case worker talked about the toxic work environment that needs to be addressed and is causing major turnover.

McPherson said she left her office in Alexandria after six years despite being dedicated to the children she served. She feared retaliation even though she no longer worked in the office. She anticipates even more people leaving in the coming months and years, stating many employees are hanging on by a thread. 

“You do what you are told to do. You don’t go against the system, you don’t state your concerns because if you do that you get the retaliation of just everything is your fault,” said Stacey McPherson, a former caseworker.

Sen. Beth Mizell said she understands the short staffing, but is still trying to understand how a call from doctors was not made a top priority to investigate.

“We can talk about vacancies all day long but in my mind what I have not been able to answer is how a call-to-call intake was not answered,” Sen. Mizell said.

The call center concerns were addressed by DCFS in response to the questions the legislature sent to the department ahead of the meeting. The answers can be read in the document linked below.

DCFS continues to point to the 400 open positions in the department being the cause of a lot of problems. The culture of the regional departments has been scrutinized as a foster parent and former case worker shared.

“Our values are that we treat people with dignity and respect and compassion and we do that while we’re delivering services with integrity,” said DCFS Secretary Marketa Garner Walters. “So to hear people talk about a toxic culture just really grieves me, it makes me sick to my stomach.”

Lawmakers stated the issue isn’t money as they are not making cuts to their budget and the salaries are in the middle of the southern average. They asked how they could help outside of finances. Walters said they desperately need help with recruitment and retention to help ease the caseload of the current employees.

The committee says they are going to continue to have more public hearings and continue their questioning of DCFS to make sure that actionable changes are happening.