BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — The Senate Select Committee on Women and Children grilled the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) after several children fell between the cracks of the system.
“With the baby, it is so unacceptable guys, we can’t have that,” said Senator Regina Barrow.
Sen. Barrow is referring to the death of 2-year-old Mitchell Robinson who died after an overdose. According to court records, this was not the first time the child was taken to the hospital and treated with Narcan for what appeared to be overdoses.
The child’s mother, Whitney Ard, 28, was arrested for his death, but state officials are fuming with DCFS for not protecting the toddler sooner.
“How can a case worker say it is ok for a child to go back to that environment?” a committee member asked.
DCFS couldn’t comment on the specific case because it’s under investigation, but they are implementing changes in the wake of Robinson’s passing.
“We agree completely with you to not let Mitchell’s death go in vain,” said DCFS Secretary Marketa Walters. “Every child under three that we get a medical referral from we see immediately, no questions asked.”
Walters and other DCFS officials said they are extremely understaffed and underfunded and their work is only getting harder with school back in session.
“We have been tackling problems that in large part are due to the loss of the 500 child welfare professionals that we still have not replaced,” Walters explained.
In Baton Rouge, half of the case worker positions are vacant, according to the DCFS Baton Rouge team. This is forcing the few in the office to take on two or three times the recommended caseload.
Several comments made by state officials at the meeting implied that criminal charges for the case worker could be warranted.