I-TEAM: Lawmaker believes more change may be necessary at DCFS to right the ship

Now that Secretary Marketa Walters is out at the Department of Children and Family Services, Senator Regina Barrow, says the agency can finally move forward.
Published: Nov. 11, 2022 at 7:29 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Now that Secretary Marketa Walters is out at the Department of Children and Family Services,  Senator Regina Barrow, (D) Baton Rouge, says the agency can finally move forward.

”I just believe that she made the right decision,” said Barrow.

But with the tragic overdose deaths of Mitchell Robinson, III, and Jahrei Paul just months apart on the state’s watch, Barrow believes more changes might be necessary to truly fix what may be broken.

”I don’t know if the buck stops there,” said Barrow. “There may need to be some more people who need to be released or resign.”

Earlier this week, the WAFB I-TEAM reported on the progress of a 90-member emergency strike team that’s been brought into power through cases. Even in the midst of their work, WAFB learned there were close to 85 cases that have not been touched in the Baton Rouge region.

”I am concerned, said Barrow. “When I heard that number that was startling to me. There are 85 cases that have not been reviewed when you have all of the resources. I’m thinking what’s happening in the rest of the state because we’ve pulled people from other places to come here and we still are behind.”

As of Friday, there are 79 cases that don’t appear to have been touched but a spokeswoman with the agency says the reports of child abuse and neglect are constant, with 24 new cases coming in since Saturday. Back in August when new policy changes were announced and leaders within the agency went before lawmakers, the public was told there were fail-safes put in place to prevent cases from falling through the cracks. Senator Barrow now questions how well that is working.

”It was my understanding from our last hearing that the way things were set up everybody should have, on certain cases, everybody should have seen at the same time and so somewhere that’s broken,” said Barrow.

Anthony Ellis heads up oversight of DCFS for Baton Rouge. He testified before lawmakers earlier this year.

“There are several layers of administrative oversight of the frontline staff,” Ellis said at the time.

In this most recent child’s death, leaders at DCFS said it was a manager who missed an email to reassign Jahrei Paul’s case and Senator Barrow says she has some serious questions for those like Ellis who are directly in charge in Baton Rouge.  

“Where was he? I still haven’t heard his name called,” Barrow added. “I haven’t heard it mentioned but he is the regional manager for this area and I want to know what happened because if we don’t clear that up then very easily we could have another situation.”

DCFS leaders are set to go back before lawmakers at the capital Friday, November 18, 2022.

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