BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Governor John Bel Edwards announces Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) Secretary Marketa Walters’ resignation Thursday.
“Mitchell Robinson, J’ahrei Paul. We will always remember those babies, those names,” said Senator Regina Barrow.
She names two young children in East Baton Rouge Parish who fell through the cracks under the Department of Children and Family Services.
Senator Barrow is on an oversight committee for the Department of Children and Family Services. Barrow says she hopes to hold more people accountable like the parish director for DCFS.
After multiple children’s death and other mishaps in the agency, DCFS Secretary Marketa Garner Walters resigned. This comes one day after Gov. John Bel Edwards publicly acknowledged failures within DCFS.
“I was not surprised after I saw the governor’s comments yesterday. But, I was relieved. I was relieved that she made that on her own rather than having to continue going through his process,” said Barrow.
DCFS leaders say they currently have more than 400 vacancies and a caseload that’s unbearable. Barrow says she understands the challenges, but the department needs to do better.
Gov. Edwards says he will hire a third-party organization to review the agency. In the meantime, Terri Porche Ricks will serve as acting secretary.
“There is no denying that child welfare agencies nationwide are facing very difficult and complex challenges and Louisiana is no exception. Those issues include staff retention, high worker caseloads, increased substance, and domestic abuse, and sadly the tragic deaths of innocent children. While there are no quick solutions, it is urgent that we find new and effective ways of addressing the problems to make certain we provide the help our families need and deserve and to move our agency forward. We have engaged a third-party expert organization to do a top-to-bottom review of DCFS and make recommendations on improvements to policies, practices, and personnel that can be made to ensure we are serving the children and families of Louisiana in the manner they deserve,” said Edwards in a statement.
“It’s all hands on deck and we need to do that until we get into a place where we feel at least we have managed the fire,” said Barrow.
Barrow says the committee will continue holding hearings and wants to hear plans moving forward from the interim.