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The collaborating agencies include the Louisiana Department of Social Services (DSS), the Office of Juvenile Justice (OJJ), the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH), and the Department of Education (DOE).
"Louisiana's current system for providing services for children and youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems is fragmented and not well-coordinated," said DSS Secretary Kristy Nichols. "By working collaboratively with partner agencies to develop a new system based on national models for coordinated systems of care, we will reduce the number of children in detention and residential settings, reduce the cost of providing services to children within the OJJ and DSS systems and improve the overall outcomes of children and their caretakers."
According to Nichols and Mary Livers, Deputy Secretary for OJJ, approximately 50,000 children and families interact with the state's child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Of these, 8,400 children are in foster care and 5,200 are in the juvenile justice system.
"Addressing the complex needs of these children and their families is one of the most challenging issues in human services today," said Livers. "Unfortunately, children in these systems are faced with mental, physical and behavioral health issues that, if left untreated, can lead to higher rates of suicide, violence, school dropout, family dysfunction, juvenile incarceration and alcohol and drug use. They also are 25 percent more likely to be homeless, enter the criminal justice system as adults and have children that go on to repeat this cycle."
The Stakeholder committee was formed to provide guidance on incorporating the values and principals of the coordinated system of care into the broader service deliver system. The committee will work with local communities and child service providers to achieve the overall goal of providing quality, comprehensive, community based services that are the least restrictive for children. In addition to state agencies, the committee is comprised of advocates, community non-profit groups and legislators, as well as representatives from the judicial, child welfare, juvenile justice and behavioral health systems.
"The system we have in place today falls well short of ensuring the right services are provided to the right child in the right place at the right time," said DHH Secretary Alan Levine. "Ultimately, we want a system in place where the individual needs of the child are determined, and the child is able to access those services that will help him or her thrive in school, at home and in his or her life. It's the least we can do for these kids who have faced challenges in their lives that they did not create."
By coordinating the system of services for children, state partner agencies will be able to pool the expertise, resources and purchasing power of all agencies that work to address the needs of children and ensure that appropriate and comprehensive services are provided to address the mental, physical and emotional needs of children.
The collaborating agencies will design a coordinated system of care, identify funding options and apply for a Medicaid waiver to provide community supports for children from birth to age 18.
The goal of the system is to reduce highly restrictive out-of-home placements for children through the creation and maintenance of coordinated and effective community-based services and health care and to create partnerships with public and private providers of services that target children, youth and their families in a multi-agency, multi-disciplinary system of services.
The new system also will address the most cost-effective approach for purchasing therapeutic foster care, residential services, therapeutic group care, residential treatment, transportation, support and education and other wrap around services.
"Many students in Louisiana come to school with multiple barriers to learning and it is absolutely critical that we address these obstacles so that our students remain engaged in the learning process," said Superintendent of Education Paul G. Pastorek. "The comprehensive system of care contributes to cost-efficiency and is essential in weaving together existing school and community services and programs. Our ultimate goal is to keep more students in school so that they become successful in their future academic and career pursuits."
It is anticipated that the implementation of the coordinated system of care will be finalized in 2011.