a scrapbook for my personal thoughts and opinions concerning louisiana’s Children
The Three Biggest Problems of Child Welfare Agencies
While reading this morning’s news reports about child welfare among the states, the following problems seem to be the most significant problems of child welfare agencies around the country.
1. First is the problem of children being removed from parents and placed into foster care for reasons of neglect because removal is a child welfare system’s obvious and almost only tool.
2. Second is the problem of states tossing children into out-of-state placements, over-nighting children in hotels and state office buildings, and losing children because states refuse to provide sufficient resources for the children in foster care. (Surely, no state intentionally plans to under serve children, but states that do not plan today for tomorrow’s needs ultimately fail children in egregious ways.)
3. Third is the problem of children who become chronically trapped in states’ extended child welfare and behavioral health systems because of prevention and early intervention services are unavailable, or due to inattention, lack of support, lack of collaboration with families, and the foster care shuffle.
Louisiana’s Support of Foster Caregivers is
14 Years Old Better!
For the first time in more than a decade, Louisiana’s foster caregivers will receive an increase in the monthly board rate that provides financial support for the care of children and youth in the State’s custody. The additional state funding will allow for an increase of about 25% in the board rates paid to caregivers, raising the average daily rate from $15.20 to $19.
The Louisiana Legislature is once again considering an increase to Louisiana’s Foster Care Board Rate. At $15.40 per day, the allowance for daily living costs has not increased in more than a decade. Each year, Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services is required by state law to ask the Legislature to increase the Foster Care Board Rate. Each year Louisiana’s Legislature ignores the request.
Louisiana’s published rate for PRTF services, the most intensive residential treatment available for children in our state, was first conjured and contrived in 2011. The rate was intentionally set lower than the projected cost of care and included a funding trick that took back from caregivers half of the difference between the state’s PRTF per diem rate (which was established arbitrarily by averaging four other states’ rates even before Louisiana’s staffing ratio was determined) and a provider’s real cost during their first year of operation. Louisiana has not increased the PRTF per diem in ten years. At the time, LDH Administration said, “Nonprofits will have to bring more to the table.”
Louisiana is currently working to set the initial per diem rate for the new Qualified Residential Treatment Facility services DCFS will seek to contract for with group homes to begin later this year. For guidance on a maximum QRTP rate, DCFS is looking at Louisiana’s PRTF rate, a ten-year-old rate that underfunded costs of care in 2011. Today, the average QRTP rate in other states is greater than the average PRTF rate in Louisiana. (PRTF is a significantly more intensive level of care than QRTP.)
Today, Louisiana’s support of the individuals and organizations who care for children in the custody of our State is ten years old. When it comes to child well-being, Louisiana lives in the past. Consequently, Louisiana misses opportunities today to improve the lives of our children and the condition of our state in the future.
An Ombudsman for Children? Not in Louisiana.
Louisiana lacks a critical component to help ensure child well-being that most states possess. Louisiana does not have a Children’s Ombudsman Office to impartially address grievances or provide our elected officials with the information required to make wise, informed decisions on behalf of our children and families.
A public sector ombudsmen as “an independent, impartial public official with authority and responsibility to receive, investigate or informally address complaints about government actions, and, when appropriate, make findings and recommendations, and publish reports.”
A Children’s Ombudsman Office is not a new concept. For years, the National Conference of State Legislatures has offered guidance to states that are interested in doing right by their children, and has published a very helpful introduction to Children’s Ombudsman Offices.
The information is at:
Children Among “Priorities for Louisiana” – Really or Rhetorically?
In my opinion, if Children were truly among the “priorities for Louisiana”, then our state government would not rely upon fickle surpluses to fund early Childhood education. A basic budgeting principle holds that priorities are funded first – because they are priorities.
By definition, priorities do not wait for surpluses. If we’re lucky, a surplus is what’s left over after the priorities have been covered.
Louisiana’s budget and funding priorities often disprove our state’s rhetoric. This persistent gap between rhetoric and reality is not hidden. To see it, one need only read through news reports from Louisiana, the state where Child well-being holds a 31-year average of 49th in the nation. See (Louisiana: 30 years of kids count headlines).
Matt Doyle’s Jan 21, 2021 report on LouisianaRadioNetwork.com in State faces hundreds of millions in budget cuts next fiscal year addresses predictions about next year’s state budget. This sentence jumps off the screen when I read it:
“We had a surplus and we had money that we were going to be able to invest in priorities for Louisiana like early childhood education,” said Dardenne.
(Clearly, this statement is only a sound bite and it says nothing about Mr. Dardenne’s personal commitment to the well-being of Louisiana’s Children. From a phone conversation during his run for governor, I know he, like all of us in Louisiana, desires good for our Children. Despite the desires we hold in common and in contrast to the imagery on the Louisiana flag, our state budget has not yet prioritized the needs of Children.)
Making early Childhood education a priority could change our state’s future in a positive way. Saying that early Childhood education is a priority is fine rhetoric, but rearing Children in a state that actually prioritized early Childhood education would be a great reality yielding longterm benefits for Louisiana Children and families and businesses and culture and … well, you get the idea.
Corporal Punishment Permitted in Louisiana Schools
Louisiana’s Revised Statues defines battery as “the intentional use of force or violence upon the person of another” (RS 14:33), and states “simple battery is a battery committed without the consent of the victim”. Louisiana’s laws define and prohibit “domestic abuse battery” (R.S. §35.3), simple battery of persons with infirmities (R.S. §35.2.), and battery of a child welfare or adult protective service worker (R.S. §35.1.).
Battery is discouraged as unlawful. We all know we should not intentionally hurt others. “Whoever commits a simple battery shall be fined not more than one thousand dollars or imprisoned for not more than six months, or both. (RS 14.35).”
Sadly, one place where battery of Children is permitted is in our public schools. While a Child slapped by an adult neighbor is an act of battery prohibited by law, a Child slapped by a teacher may be an approved act of student discipline.
Louisiana law permits the following techniques for corporal punishment: “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”.
Child Welfare and Distress During and After COVID-19
The pandemic spread of COVID-19 does not bode well for Children. Evidence indicates the disease itself is not as medically dangerous to Children as it is to those who are in an identified “higher risk” category which includes the elderly and individuals with pre-existing health conditions. But have no doubt, every Child and the conditions of all children are indirectly at risk.
These articles from across the nation explain the factors and dynamics which are at work against Children:
COVID-19 Child Abuse Reporting
What COVID-19 means for America’s child welfare system by Morgan Welch and Ron Haskins, The Brookings Institution
Child abuse reports down in Texas since COVID-19, a trend advocates fear by Hannah Dellinger, Houston Chronicle
Why child welfare experts fear a spike of abuse during COVID-19 by Laura Santhanam, PBS
Drop in calls to child abuse hotlines raises flags by Neil Schoenherr-WUSTL, Futurity
Why surge in foster care placement will follow COVID-19 pandemic by Gracie Bonds Staples, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Children in Jeopardy: The Covid-19 lockdown will greatly strain the U.S. foster-care system by Naomi Schaefer Riley, City Journal
COVID-19 pandemic creates a shortage of foster parents by Hannah Knowles, WWMT Newschannel 3
U.S. Alcohol Sales Increase 55 Percent in One Week Amid Coronavirus Pandemic by Jade Bremner, Newsweek
U.S. alcohol sales increase amid coronavirus pandemic by Nexstar Media Wire
‘Children are going hungry’: Why Schools Are Struggling To Feed Students by Cory Turner, NPR
Sen. Bill Cassidy On Reopening Schools: Children Are Paying A High Price At Home by James Doubek, NPR