DCFS responds to concerns stemming from Central Louisiana offices

DCFS has responded to the concerns expressed among employees in the Alexandria office regarding a toxic workplace environment.
Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 4:41 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - On Sept. 12, News Channel 5 shared the stories of two former Central Louisiana employees who left the Department of Children and Family Services after experiencing, what they say, were years of stress from a toxic work environment. That stress resulted in anxiety, medication and therapy, all of which they said were not due to the workload but rather from who was over them in the workplace.

Their interviews were anonymous, largely due to their concerns over retaliation towards themselves, as well as those they knew within the offices they had worked.

That has been a common complaint and responding to those issues DCFS hopes to address and change.

In Alexandria specifically, DCFS said they have been implementing solutions since as early as 2020. They have initiated an Alexandria Taskforce to promote greater communication among all staff and external partners, like foster parents and CASA representatives. That taskforce is also meant to ensure concerns among staff are addressed in a confidential way, with emails to the taskforce being monitored by a staff member outside of the region.

In response to the fear of retaliation staff in the Alexandria office have expressed in coming forward with concerns, DCFS released the following statement:

DCFS is also working to address similar concerns statewide through multiple efforts.

One of the efforts includes the Casey Family Program, which is structured around applying safety science principles to critical incident reviews, which are considered mishandlings of cases resulting in deaths.

Part of the program includes redirecting blame from individuals to overall systemic accountability and addressing systemic issues, instead of taking quick action like firing staff. They say this approach is to develop a safety culture from top to bottom within the department.

They also detailed efforts to address the full needs of employees “considering the voice of our employees to a greater degree.” Those efforts include shifting coverage to a 24/7 model, contracting an employee assistance program and providing more training and professional development.

Legislative oversight hearings are expected to continue every six weeks to keep addressing DCFS concerns. At this time, the next meeting is expected in mid-October.

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