Former child-welfare worker says she didn’t create fake reports; bosses condoned skirting rules _lowres

Kimberly Deann Lee, 49

The former child welfare worker accused of failing her job of checking on foster children is explaining her actions through her lawyer, a day after she was arrested on counts of filing fake paperwork in her cases.

Kimberly Deann Lee was assigned 26 cases at a time — well above the 10-case maximum — and told her supervisors of her unmanageable workload, said her lawyer, Katrina Jackson.

Lee never missed a face-to-face visit with children, but instead of performing required in-home visits, Lee sometimes saw children and families at school, Jackson said. This constituted a “standard operating procedure” well known to supervisors in the state Department of Children and Family Services office where Lee worked, Jackson said.

About Lee’s concerns, managers told her to “do what she needed to do to get the job done,” Jackson said.

State Inspector General Stephen Street, whose office conducted the criminal investigation into Lee, said “the evidence will bear itself out” on Lee’s claims. Children and Family Services spokeswoman Grace Weber did not answer a request late Thursday on Lee’s claims about managers but said earlier that day that both the agency and the Inspector General’s Office concluded Lee created records of fake visits.

Lee was fired from the agency after an internal probe last year.

The arrest Wednesday came the same day agency officials pleaded with lawmakers to fill a $15 million gap in its budget. And it highlighted complaints child welfare experts have long been making: the gutting of the agency during former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s tenure has led to dangerous staff cuts, high caseloads and bad outcomes for children.

A 49-year-old Calhoun resident, Lee faces 20 counts of filing false public records and a count of malfeasance in office. After posting a $25,000 bond at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on Wednesday, Lee was released.

“While the department acknowledges that worker caseloads sometimes may exceed the caseload standard of 10, we continue to assess and address worker caseloads on an ongoing basis,” Weber said.

Though Lee worked in north Louisiana, the case is being prosecuted in Baton Rouge because the reports were filed electronically in the capital city, Street said.

Jackson said Lee was given a statewide worker of the year award, around 2002, by Court Appointed Special Advocates, a Louisiana child advocacy organization.

“Mrs. Lee was a dedicated employee who followed instructions to the best of her abilities at all times,” Jackson said.