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State officials investigating DCFS handling of case in which toddler died

Louisiana State Capitol
Posted at 2:20 PM, Aug 03, 2022

A 2-year-old child's death from a fentanyl overdose has spurred an investigation into the Louisiana Department of Child and Family Services by the state's Inspector General, already yielding "policy changes" and "personnel actions" at the troubled child welfare agency, officials told our media partners at The Advocate.

The newspaper reports that two-year-old Mitchell Robinson was unresponsive when his mother, 28-year-old Whitney Ard, brought him to a hospital in April, East Baton Rouge deputies said, prompting deputies to refer the case to DCFS and urge an investigation, according to an affidavit released Tuesday.

Deputies again referred the mother to DCFS in early June, when she brought the little boy back — again, in an unresponsive state, the paper reports.

Staff on both occasions revived the child with Narcan, a drug used to resuscitate people in the throes of an opioid overdose, the affidavit says. But when the woman brought Mitchell to a hospital for a third time on June 26, staff weren't able to revive him. An investigation by the East Baton Rouge coroner concluded on Tuesday that the child died of "acute fentanyl toxicity."

The East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office said Ard was arrested for negligent homicide. And DCFS, which has struggled mightily with staffing and other problems, faces an investigation, the Advocate reports.

DCFS Secretary Marketa Garner Walters told The Advocate on Wednesday that the little boy's death has spurred an investigation by Louisiana's Office of Inspector General, which she said will "review every step of this case." Already, the probe has yielded internal changes at the agency.

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