BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Officials have determined that the death of a 1-year-old child on Halloween night in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was due to a fentanyl overdose.
This is at least the second fentanyl-related death of a young child in the capital this year and will likely result in further demands for reform in the state’s Department of Children and Family Services, which is tasked with keeping children safe.
Ten days before the child died, a person called Louisiana’s child welfare hotline to warn that the baby’s mother and grandmother were allegedly using drugs and that, “Y’all need to just go out there before another child dies,” The Advocate reported.
It’s unclear at this time if a case worker visited the family following the anonymous call.
Despite the warning, the 20-month old child died after being brought to a local hospital last week. Following an autopsy it was found that the child died of acute fentanyl toxicity, East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Beau Clark said in a statement Friday to The Advocate.
Authorities are still investigating how the child was administered the deadly opioid, however detectives say they have identified a suspect, but declined to identify the suspect’s relationship to the child.
Based on documents provided to The Advocate and The Times-Picayune, the family had a lengthy history with DCFS. The agency had validated reports of abuse or neglect against the child’s mother in 2016, 2018 and 2021.
In August, Louisiana officials opened a probe into the department after a 2-year-old died from a dose of fentanyl. The child’s mother, Whitney Ard, 28, was indicted on a second-degree murder charge.
In the months leading up to the boy’s death, doctors had flagged risks to the child’s safety twice. The supervisor who was in charge of the boy’s case resigned and the worker who was assigned to the case has been suspended while the investigation plays out.
The 2-year-old child’s death shed light on a pattern of understaffing and underfunding that has plunged the agency into a deepening crisis in recent years. The death also prompted calls for reform from state lawmakers, attorneys and others.