The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, which has struggled in recent years under crushing caseloads, has tapped a veteran pediatric emergency room doctor to bolster medical services in its child welfare division.
Dr. Rebecca Hook joins the agency from Our Lady of the Lake Medical and OLOL children’s hospital, where she spent eight years as an emergency room pediatrician, a DCFS spokesperson said Tuesday. Under the new title of director of medical services, Hook will serve as an in-house clinical resource for DCFS caseworkers responding to reports of child abuse and neglect.
“It was a difficult decision to the leave the clinical side of medicine, but I believe this position can help unify the community,” Hook said in a statement. “We all have the same goal to keep children safe and healthy. I hope to bridge the gap between Child Welfare and the medical community in order to better serve the children of Louisiana.”
The need for Hook’s skills has become evident in the past two years as cases have emerged of young children dying of exposure to fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that has become more prevalent, after DCFS had previously been alerted of dangers to their health.
The agency responded by overhauling its leadership and doubling down on hiring new staff. It has since made strides, hiring dozens of new caseworkers and other employees over the past year, agency officials told lawmakers at a hearing this spring.
At the time, though, they also told lawmakers that reports of urgent child neglect cases had continued to grow.
“Creating this position and appointing Dr. Hook is part of our comprehensive strategy to improve decision-making as it involves child safety, especially in high-risk cases,” DCFS secretary Terri Ricks said in a statement. “I’m pleased to have been able to appoint such a specially-trained and experienced doctor for this important work.”