In my opinion, this is a short checklist for improving Louisiana for Children. These are some of the specific steps I believe the state of Louisiana can take to make Louisiana a better place for Children.
Checklist for Improving Louisiana for Children
- Louisiana’s citizens must communicate with their elected officials to remind them that we do care about children and we expect the state’s budget and legislative priorities to prove it.
- Louisiana’s Governors and Legislators must properly fund the state’s services for children, especially the Department of Children and Family Services and the Office of Juvenile Justice.
- Except when it must be done for medical reasons, Louisiana must end out-of-state placements for treatment or detention. To this end, we must find ways to keep Louisiana Children home, near their families and communities.
- Maintain facilities capable of meeting the needs of children who require structured care.
- Establish an Office of Children’s Ombuds.
- Establish a Foster Care Ombuds.
- Let the Jindal administration’s reductions become history and talk about reasons DCFS funding and staffing has not been restored during the six years since that administration ended.
- Relative to 2007, Louisiana’s Governors and Legislatures have underfunded DCFS by $4.8 billion (yes, with a B) and about 17,000 staff/years. Louisiana must plan for children’s services and funding the same way Louisiana plans for erosion control at $50 billion over 50 years.
- Waive college tuition for Children who have been in foster care. (Come on, Baton Rouge! Even Mississippi designates $1 million for Children from foster care to attend postsecondary education.)
- Seek national accreditation for the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services. (DCFS was once one of only five states to achieve national accreditation by the Council on Accreditation.)
- Prohibit corporal punishment in schools (esp. the forms that LA law allows: “hitting, paddling, striking, spanking, slapping, or any other physical force that causes pain or physical discomfort” [LA Rev Stat § 17:416.1] against Children in elementary school, subject to each school’s “governing authority”.)
- Increase transparency by creating a Child welfare dashboard (see the West Virginia Child Welfare Dashboard for a new example).
- Louisiana parents have a right to know about Child well-being and Child welfare in our state. Consequently, Louisiana should restore and maintain the Louisiana Kids Dashboard. It was once at https://www.kidsdashboard.la.gov/, then it moved to https://www.facebook.com/LouisianaKidsDashboard/. (Facebook reports, “This content isn’t available right now. When this happens, it’s usually because the owner only shared it with a small group of people, changed who can see it or it’s been deleted.”)
- Louisiana should ensure that all federal benefits designed for Children and their families are received by or retained for the intended Child. Federal benefits for children (“survivor’s benefits” for example) should not be used to reimburse state services provided to Children in foster care. (see Were You Ever in Foster Care? Here’s How to Find Out if the Government Took Your Money)