BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Senate Finance Committee learned that the Department of Children and Family Services faces a $4 million cut of state money under the House budget plan. A cut which could also lead to them losing several million dollars in federal funding as well.
DCFS leaders told lawmakers Monday that cuts of that magnitude could lead to them being forced to lay off 20 people who work on child welfare cases. That means people that investigate alleged child abuse of neglect and also help kids in need.
In February, DCFS Secretary Marketa Garner Walters told lawmakers that the department had to keep a 7-year-old child overnight in its office rather than putting them into a facility or a foster home.
She said that's in part because they already are so short staffed, they do not have the personnel available to train and identify foster families.
"The department has been decimated over the past eight years, there's no other word to use," said Walters about the cuts her department saw throughout the Jindal Administration. "The staff has gone down over 30 percent, the budget has gone down over 30 percent. You can't do quality work when you don't have humans to do it. We are not an agency you can automate, we are human services."
DCFS leaders told the Senate Finance Committee the budget cuts could lead to more than 60 positions being eliminated from the SNAP Food Stamp program, which the department also oversees.
That means it will take longer for SNAP benefits to be approved for families in need, and there will also be less people available to identify cases of fraud among SNAP users.
The Senate will be unveiling their budget plan likely sometime next week, at which point they could put more money into the DCFS budget.