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"We realized that DCFS shared a client-base with these organizations and many of our clients were already visiting them for services," said DCFS Secretary Ruth Johnson. "Combining resources with these established entities through our Community Partners Initiative allows DCFS to increase avenues for services and allows our partners to offer additional assistance to their clients."
Community partners are an integral part of DCFS' new service delivery model, which provides more ways for clients to apply for services and access services beyond traditional brick and mortar offices. The changes also reduce the need for clients to travel to multiple locations to do business with DCFS and reduce congestion at DCFS offices.
Community partners are regional and community organizations that already serve the public. They vary from school health centers and food pantries to councils on aging and churches. As community partners, these groups assist DCFS clients with varying levels of support, from providing information about DCFS services to guiding clients through the application process.
In many rural parishes, low-income residents can avoid long trips to the DCFS office by accessing DCFS services at community partners. For example, in Union Parish, community partners in Marion and Junction City serve populations 13 and 29 miles, respectively, from DCFS' Farmerville office. Additionally, two community partners in Farmerville reduce congestion at the nearby DCFS office, allowing clients to be served more quickly.
In Plaquemines Parish, where there are no physical DCFS offices, community partners provide access to DCFS services from Belle Chasse to Empire.
In Bossier Parish, clients can access services at 11 community partners in Bossier City, Benton, Haughton and Princeton, reducing the trip to Bossier City's DCFS office by as much as 17 miles.
In West Baton Rouge, where there is no longer a physical DCFS office, community partners are located in Port Allen, Brusly and Erwinville, saving DCFS clients applying for benefits as much as a 40 mile round trip to the Baton Rouge Economic Stability office.
Community partners undergo training from DCFS and keep all information about clients confidential. Partners do not determine eligibility for DCFS program benefits. DCFS is responsible for processing all applications completed at a community partner site, including interviewing the applicant, determining eligibility for benefits and notifying applicants of decisions.
There are three levels of participation for community partners:
- Bronze level partners are self-services sites that make informational materials available, as well as offer paper applications, telephones, fax machines and other office equipment necessary for applicants to carry out business with DCFS.
- Silver level partners, in addition to bronze level services, make at least one computer available for members of public to fill out and submit an application to DCFS online. Additionally, silver partners have staff available to answer questions during the application process.
- Gold level partners, in addition to bronze and silver level services, have partner staff available to enter applicant information on behalf of the applicant, if requested.
In addition to community partners, DCFS' new service model allows clients to apply for services, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) and other programs, online at DCFS' website, www.dcfs.louisiana.gov. The model also includes satellite offices, other state agency offices, roving workers and access via phone and Internet.
"In the past three years, the number of food stamp cases in Louisiana has increased by more than one third," said Johnson. "As the need grows, DCFS must provide more efficient options for clients to access our services within their communities. Our new service delivery model and community partners offer multiple ways for DCFS to meet the individual needs of clients while reducing our physical footprint. It's part of our goal to provide greater access to services by developing new ways to do business in the 21st century."
SNAP is administered in Louisiana by DCFS and overseen by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. Read more about recipients' rights.