BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — A senate committee is talking about ways to tighten up the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) after the agency went through quite a bit of controversy the past few months.

DCFS met with lawmakers and brought a hefty plan to the table. They’re working to create policies to move the department forward in areas like hiring, work culture, child welfare, and investigations.

“We are doing a lot because, as you have said, you need to do more,” said Department of Children and Family Services Secretary Marketa Garner Walters.

It’s no secret that DCFS has been under the spotlight after several tragedies involving children. Now they are meeting with lawmakers to get things right.

“Let’s make this a free flowing conversation,” said state Sen. Fred Mills (R).

The Senate committee wanted to set the record straight. Contrary to popular belief that the agency is extremely underfunded, the department’s secretary and lawmakers say otherwise.

“You’ve been funded for everything you’re doing, we funded you for,” stated State Sen. Beth Mizell (R).

“All of those things have been funded and we appreciate that and we acknowledge that,” added Walters.

To move forward the department says they are also casting a wider net for employees by lowering requirements and fast-tracking the hiring process.

“The really exciting thing to me is the time frame there. For a good day, it usually takes 100 days to get somebody through that process and now we’re down to about 30 days to get them through that process,” DCFS Assistant Secretary of Child Welfare Rhenda Hodnett explained.

They said the next step is tightening up procedures like working with local judges for enforcement.

“We have to really move very quickly with some of these cases because 24 hours is going to be too long,” said State Sen. Regina Barrow (D).

“We do have the authority to call at any time that we feel like children or unsafe. We call the judge and immediately can request a court order,” said Hodnet. “And our numbers in Baton Rouge have gone up significantly in the number of kids who are actually having to come into foster care.”

Another priority was to get social workers involved, before a report is made, especially in a higher-risk family.

“We have hired 11 nurses that are helping take the substance, expose newborns, and going out and doing those investigations,” Walters explained.

They also planned to connect with community agencies and groups to further their reach, but again, it boils down to staffing.

“I do believe our policies were solid prior to this. Our practices had them reviewed by multiple entities. It’s their ability to carry it out,” Hodnett said.

They are hosting job fairs across the state to bolster their workforce.

Opportunities available include:

  • Administrative Coordinator
  • Child Welfare Specialist Trainee
  • Child Welfare Specialist 1-3
  • Social Services Analyst 1-3 for Economic Stability
  • Social Services Analyst 1-3 for Child Support Enforcement
  • Workforce Development Specialist 1-3

Registration link, along with full descriptions of open positions, will be available here.

The next meeting is tentatively planned for November 30.