BATON ROUGE, La, (BRPROUD) — For the first time since the interim leadership took over, the Department of Children and Family Services reported to the state legislature about how they are implementing change.
A recent survey by the Legislative Auditor’s Office found that workers for DCFS feel there are major issues with pay, workload, and respect in the workplace.
“We have to be positive in this approach, we have to,” said Sen. Gerald Boudreaux, D-Lafayette. “I read the articles this week on surveys, none of that is new to me.”
Legislators have been grilling the department for months after multiple children have died under DCFS watch. Acting Secretary Terri Porche Ricks provided a detailed timeline of when some programs will be launched from recruitment to training, to implementing strike teams in the hardest impacted areas.
“We have to ween it out until we can get something that sounds good, looks good, but is actually working,” said Ricks.
There has been a major reform in how abuse reports are handled when they come in. Ricks said it is the main topic that she’s focusing on.
“Number one is the timely assessment of children that come in through intake. That is what drives everything else on here actually. All of the retention and recruitment work is to drive being able to have a timely assessment,” Ricks said.
Lawmakers also pushed the department to make a list of financial needs they have to send to the money committees for consideration during budget talks. With recent fiscal years ending in surpluses, the senators said they would be willing to support the needs of the department to fix the issue. One problem is there aren’t enough vehicles for workers making house calls to take, so they have to use their own cars.
“If we expect these people to perform at the level that we are insisting they do, we have to give them some simple tools to do their job,” said Sen. Jay Luneau, D-Alexandria.
While recruitment is in the works – DCFS is hiring contractors to fill the gaps in some regions to help ease some of the pressure off of the current employees. In Baton Rouge, contractors are being hired in some regions to handle the overnight shifts so workers are not on the job at all hours.
Senators said the timeline presented is showing some positive changes, but there is a long way to go.