BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) met with the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare for additional questioning Thursday morning.

The 10 a.m. meeting at the Louisiana State Capitol focused on the child welfare division.

DCFS Secretary Marketa Walters and lawmakers discussed internal processes and changes made to the agency’s hiring strategy. The agency has previously faced questioning in August and September from lawmakers as they look for answers as to why Louisiana children may not be getting the proper care and protection.

“Good things are coming from this conversation that I don’t believe would have happened otherwise,” said Senator Beth Mizell. “If we can step on each other’s toes a little bit to get to a better place then so be it.”

The second half of Senate committee meeting with DCFS:

Several lawmakers mentioned a newspaper article published Thursday morning claiming that the agency is underfunded and placing the blame on the legislature.

“It’s incredibly frustrating when we know what we’ve done and it’s not reflected at all in what’s reported and that’s unfortunate,” said Senator W. Jay Luneau.

Walters said the agency’s budget has increased in technology and services that were previously absorbed. She adds that raises have been approved.

DCFS has cited hiring as an issue. In a Senate committee meeting on Aug. 8, DCFS officials told lawmakers that the agency is severely understaffed and underfunded, with caseworkers taking on more work than recommended. The agency announced a series of statewide hiring fairs on Oct. 13. There are hiring fairs planned from October to mid-December.

The agency told lawmakers Thursday that policy changes have been made regarding reports from medical providers. DCFS Assistant Secretary Rhenda Hodnett said if a child three years old and under is reported by a medical provider that there is suspected abuse or neglect, then that report is accepted unless overridden by a manager.

“It’s not just looking at the child and saying, ‘I think this child looks well’ — it’s contacting the pediatrician too, verifying the care of the child, understanding what they [nurses/medical professionals] are looking for in developmental stages of a child,” said Hodnett.

The agency made headlines in local media after the overdose death of a two-year-old child and sex abuse allegations of a Zachary foster parent. Following the toddler’s overdose death, leaders in DCFS said the agency launched an internal investigation into the case.