State’s Mishandling Was Even Worse Than Suspected in Case of Louisiana Toddler Who Died From Fentanyl Overdose
A supervisor with the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services resigned after new information was released in regards to the agency's handling of the case of a 2-year-old who died from a fentanyl overdose.
According to a report from Andrea Gallo with The Advocate, the DCFS supervisor that resigned was the supervisor overseeing the case of Mitchell Robinson III, the 2-year-old boy who died from a fentanyl overdose "despite three warnings that the department needed to check on him."
The toddler died on June 25 and numerous reports noted that the child was never removed from his troubled mother's care despite multiple arrests, drug busts, and—perhaps the most disturbing detail—the fact that DCFS was aware of at least three incidents before the tragic overdose that claimed the little boy's life.
His mother Whitney Ard was arrested on a count of negligent homicide after a coroner determined that a fentanyl overdose was his cause of death. You can see the original story here as new details have unfolded in the wake of public outrage over the system that many believe failed the toddler.
As an internal DCFS investigation into their handling of earlier handling of the boy continues, Gallo's report reveals that the supervisor who was in charge of his case has resigned and the worker assigned to his case has been suspended for the duration of the ongoing investigation.
DCFS Secretary Marketa Garner Walters also released new information this week providing a timeline of how the agency failed 2-year-old Robinson.
On April 12, DCFS received its first report about Mitchell from a staff member at the hospital where he was being treated.
the little boy was hospitalized as unresponsive and treated with the opioid antidote Narcan. She said the agency was told that drug testing did not reveal any substances in Mitchell’s system. Walters also said that while a hospital staffer reported administering Narcan, DCFS employees may not have understood that Narcan was connected to an overdose. The state agency did not open an investigation.
Walters said that in hindsight, the agency should have opened up an investigation.
On June 4th, another report was received by DCFS after the little boy was hospitalized and revived with Narcan once again. Hospital workers feared the little boy may have had a substance in his system that was going undetected.
At that point, DCFS opened up an investigation and assigned a case worker before failing the 2-year-old once again.
The worker made one attempt to visit Ard, the boy's mother, and her children, and they were not home. She moved on to other cases.
On June 17, another report was filed—this time from the physician in charge of treating Mitchell who called the state child abuse hotline when the child's drug screen came back positive for fentanyl.
She also explained that Mitchell would not have responded to Narcan without being exposed to an opioid. She added that doctors had ruled out suspicion of the little boy having seizures and that she was worried because his parents had recently been arrested in a drug bust.
Walters "nodded" when she was asked if the physician's report was enough to have Mitchell removed from his home "immediately." But even with the physician's report being delivered with "a heightened sense of urgency" the little boy remained in danger.
To say DCFS dragged their feet would be an understatement, as the caseworker claims to have spoken to Ard and scheduled another time to meet; but when it was time for that visit, she was busy removing children from a parent's care in another case. Then, the Advocate report says she fell ill.
The worker then had to take a break after being hospitalized with pneumonia. She was out on sick leave from June 21 to June 27. At that point, Walters said, her supervisor should have stepped in and picked up the case or reassigned it.
No one picked up the case. It wasn't reassigned by the supervisor nor did they step in to handle what was known to be a very urgent situation. The case "lingered, no one checked on Mitchell, and on June 26 (less than a week after the doctor's final warning) the little boy died.
Walters said there was no excuse for the system failing Mitchell.
So what didn’t happen is that it didn’t get to the supervisor for the supervisor to reassign it or follow it up. That’s the breakdown…let me also be clear; this is not an excuse. Nobody here is excusing the inexcusable.
Speaking of failing, DCFS wasn't the only agency that let the 2-year-old boy down. According to Walters, DCFS was unaware that Mitchell's parents were arrested because the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office never filed a report after they were busted for drugs.
If there was a child present when they did a drug bust, they should have called us. But we don’t have any record of that.
In the end, all of these new details just confirm that this poor toddler was failed at every turn by multiple agencies, at both the state and local levels.
In my mind, there was more responsibility on the part of the supervisor than the part of the worker. But the worker should have been doing a better job all along of documenting and making sure that everything was up to date so someone else could have more easily picked it up. It’s a very, very difficult situation all the way around.
If there is any silver lining here it is that DCFS is looking into "all other cases that were being overseen by the worker (currently suspended) and the supervisor (resigned). The supervisor has reportedly been replaced by a consultant as the agency works to overcome hurdles that contributed to this oversight.
Learn more about the timeline of failures that led to Mitchell's death as well as steps that DCFS is reportedly taking to avoid situations like this from happening in the future here via The Advocate.