- Associated Press - Monday, April 14, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - An audit finds the state agency charged with protecting children in abuse and neglect situations has fewer workers, more cases and has failed to follow its own policies.

The Louisiana Legislative Auditor released the report Monday.

The state Department of Children and Family Services, called DCFS, handled 130,186 cases, including 192 child fatalities, during the five-year period, between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2013. Auditors sought to check the systems used to evaluate cases appropriately and to timely investigate the situations.

“Overall, we found that DCFS did not always conduct its child welfare activities in accordance with its policies and other requirements,” stated the report signed by Louisiana Legislative Auditor Daryl G. Purpera.

The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/1kQYSvZ ) auditors made 17 recommendations that DCFS Secretary Suzy Sonnier agreed with some, and took issue with others in a seven-page letter.

While noting that the response times were getting better, the audit took issue with how fast it took, in some cases, a DCFS child welfare caseworker to make face-to-face contact with a family after the allegations were made.

The report found that 104 cases where the response was slow involved sexual abuse and three involved deaths.

In one case, reported in the audit, a father sexually molested his son and was previously charged with raping his daughter, but was never indicted. It took DCFS 117 days to make contact with the family.

The delay was due to DCFS not reassigning the case after the worker resigned and the supervisor was out on extended leave, the audit found.

The numbers are significant, the percentages are small.

The audit found that the time it takes for DCFS personnel to respond to a case decreased from 7.26 days in 2009 to 2.79 days in fiscal year 2103. But in 1,195 of the 88,956 cases, caseworkers took 60 days to respond.

The Legislative Auditor determined that DCFS faces a variety of challenges, from budget cuts to high turnover rates.

DCFS Secretary Sonnier wrote that the agency does not have the flexibility to add staff once the budget is adopted. She added that the current caseload standards meet the Child Welfare League recommendations.

The auditor responded to Sonnier stating that the time to request more staff is during the budget process, “not after the budget has been adopted.”


Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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