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Louisiana in urgent need of additional foster families

Photo provided by MGN Online.
Friday, May 17, 2013 - 4:00pm

As part of Foster Care Awareness Month, as proclaimed by Governor Bobby Jindal for May, the Department of Family and Children Services (DCFS) is focusing its efforts on recruiting new foster families. The effort is part of the Faith in Families initiative, which seeks to identify and encourage potential foster families and promote adoption of foster children. As of April 30, 1,944 foster homes in Louisiana were serving 4,002 foster children.

"The heart of our foster care program is truly with the families and children," said DCFS Secretary Suzy Sonnier. "Foster parents play a special role in the life of a child who has had to leave their family, either permanently or temporarily because of abuse or neglect."

Governor Jindal's proclamation declares that "foster, kinship and adoptive families play a vital role in helping children and families heal and reconnect, thereby launching young people into successful adult lives." During state fiscal year 2012, the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) served more than 7,500 children in foster care.

DCFS recruits year-round for foster families who can provide a home and care for a child or children. "We are in particular seeking families willing to take larger sibling groups or children with special needs," said Sonnier. "It's also important that we have foster families in all parts of the state, so children can stay close to home and experience minimal movements from schools and other activities."

Foster care orientation meetings are held each month across the state. You can find out more about when orientations are scheduled at www.dcfs.la.gov/foster, as well as information on qualifications, the certification process and what to expect as a foster family that cares for a child or children temporarily.

In State Fiscal Year 2012, nearly three quarters of children removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect were eventually reunited with their birth parents, relatives or other family members. About 18 percent of children exiting foster care in that time were adopted.

In March, DCFS launched a new initiative, Faith in Families, designed to safely reduce the number of children in foster care, reduce the amount of time children spend in foster care, and ensure that all children exiting foster care do so with a permanent family connection.

In 2012, DCFS began implementing Advanced Safety training in several regions. The Advanced Safety model helps DCFS assess safety, risk and family functioning and to develop a case plan that reduces safety threats and improve how a caregiver protects children in their care. Full statewide implementation is expected by January 2014.

Other foster care and child welfare program improvements implemented over the past two years include Centralized Intake, which ensures more consistent screening and decision making of child abuse and neglect reports statewide. It also allows local child protection investigation workers with DCFS more time in the field completing investigations. The result has been earlier interventions for families that need help and fewer placements into foster care. The child abuse hotline has received more than 112,000 calls since its July 2011 launch.

During May, DCFS offices statewide are taking part in activities promoting foster care, honoring current foster families and celebrating children in care. "I want to thank all of our foster families for opening up their homes to assist and for providing a safe and nurturing environment for these children," said Sonnier. "Strong, supportive foster homes have allowed us to reduce the number of kids placed in residential facilities."

A year-round initiative hopes to link foster children who are available to be adopted with families. Each month, DCFS highlights foster children who are available for adoption on its web site, www.dcfs.louisiana.gov. There are currently more than 250 foster children available for adoption in Louisiana who do not have an identified adoptive placement.

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