Gov. doubles down on support for DCFS leadership amid ongoing scrutiny

Gov. John Bel Edwards is doubling down on his support for DCFS Secretary Marketa Garner Waters.
Published: Sep. 7, 2022 at 6:02 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2022 at 7:19 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Gov. John Bel Edwards is doubling down on his support for Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) Secretary Marketa Garner Waters.

While some have questioned if anything will be done to fix the agency in the short term, some lawmakers have called for a change in leadership as others say the buck stops with the governor. After a toddler died after overdosing three times on the agency’s watch and a foster child was sexually assaulted, allegedly at the hands of his caretaker, Senator Patrick McMath (R)-Covington, says it’s up to the governor to make changes but he doubts that will actually happen.

“While I would be wholly in support of significant overhauls, they have to come down from this administration quite honestly,” said McMath. “I don’t see that happening over the next 18 months.”

“I reject that,” the governor said.

Despite the recent failures, the governor is doubling down and says he still has faith in Secretary Marketa Walters. He believes even with the challenges of worker shortages and burnout, changes have already been made within the agency.

“We’ve had some failures that I don’t make excuses for and nobody makes excuses for but they have resulted already in some changes in policies and procedures,” the governor said. “There are individuals who are no longer there and supervisors who are no longer supervisors and are no longer there.”

The governor also said they are getting creative to attract qualified people to do the work and fill the 400 positions needed to get things back on track.

“We have increased funding available for DCFS. We are working with the civil service system to get special entrance rates and other ways to better pay people so that we can attract and retain these workers that we need and we’re expanding the universe of people who are going to be qualified to get these jobs at DCFS,” the governor said.

The governor points out things are better today than they were when he first took office. While they were up against deep budget cuts, he defends the work the secretary and her team have done in the last several years.

“When we first came in, DCFS was in crisis quite frankly because of repeated budget cuts and real challenges,” the governor said. “The first thing she did was reorganize the agency. By every metric that we had, improvements were consistent all the way through up until the COVID situation hit so I have all the confidence in the world that she and her team are the ones to lead us through this.”

While he understands the frustration, the governor believes changing leadership now would do more harm than good when it comes to turning things around at the agency.

“I think that that would probably delay the improvements and the changes that we know need to be made to bring in a new team at this point,” the governor said.

The governor says if he were to lose faith in the agency, everyone will know it.

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