State representative calls for independent investigation of DCFS

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - State Representative Alfred Williams is calling for an investigation of the Department of Children and Family Services. This comes after a malnourished 15-year-old was found living in horrible conditions on July 8.

In a news conference held at his office Tuesday, Rep. Williams asked Governor Bobby Jindal to hire an independent investigator to look into DCFS. He said the agency "isn't working to keep children safe."

Although DCFS says it will change its policies, Williams believes an independent investigator will find out if DCFS is doing its job. He is also asking the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate to come up with a committee that would review the performance of DCFS.

"Look at all of your policies. Evidently something has fallen short. You can not wait until a person dies or is neglected like this young man to address your policies. They need to be addressing their policies right now to make sure that children in our parish and our state are safe," said Williams.

Williams also said at least three DCFS workers have reached out to him and complained about how the agency handles certain cases and the lack of effort.

"What they are basically forced to do is to open a file in 60 days and close it if you can," said Williams.

"Anyone who has made that statement to representative Williams, I would ask that they either give him permission to give that information to me or that they contact me personally," said DCFS Secretary Suzy Sonnier.

Later Tuesday, in response to Rep. Williams' news conference, officials with DCFS responded with their own news conference. Sonnier said the department will do everything it can to be cooperative including being transparent.

"If we need to do an investigation, I welcome that. I welcome anyone coming in and looking at what this department has done," said Sonnier.

Doug Cain, spokesman for Gov. Jindal, released a statement Tuesday night:

"We were saddened to hear of this child's case and the horrific conditions he was subjected to. We will continue to work closely with DCFS to ensure that we are doing all we can to protect our most vulnerable children. DCFS immediately launched an investigation into the circumstances of this case and have already begun implementing policy changes to prevent this from happening in the future. We will review the information to ensure that the proper protocols are in place and are being followed. 

"DCFS has continual external review of it's policies and practices for child welfare from both the federal government and the Council on Accreditation, responsible for accrediting Child Welfare organizations nationally and internationally. We will be working with DCFS to assemble a team of national experts to conduct an additional review of all Child Welfare activities to identify any further recommendations to ensure the safety of children."

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