Goal of 'Faith in Families' plan is ensuring safety, lasting connections
BATON ROUGE, LA — The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) today announced a new child welfare initiative that focuses on creating lasting connections for children who spend time in protective care.
DCFS's "Faith in Families" initiative seeks to reduce the number of children in foster care, decrease the amount of time children spend in the system and ensure that each child has a permanent connection when they leave foster care.
Children deserve strong and loving families," said DCFS Secretary Suzy Sonnier. "This initiative will bring positive and life-changing impacts to children in our foster care system."
The "Faith in Families" initiative includes increasing adoption placements by expediting identified placements for foster children, identifying and encouraging potential foster and adoptive families and safely reducing the number of children who enter foster care.
Additionally, DCFS will work aggressively to improve permanent connections for youth on the verge of aging out of foster care. DCFS will work to identify family or other community members who can provide lasting relationships for young people ensuring that no children exit the foster care system without someone to call family.
"Research indicates that children who age out of foster care without a permanent connection face significant challenges, including homelessness, unemployment, mental health and substance abuse issues and involvement with the criminal justice system," said Sonnier. "Life-long connections are key to ensuring that these children have a place to live, stay in school and make positive decisions about their lives going forward."
Specifically, by 2015, DCFS seeks to accomplish the following goals:
Reduce the number of children in foster care:
- Safely reduce the number of children in foster care by 1,000
- 95 percent of all children returning home will not return to foster care
Reduce the amount of time in Foster Care:
- 85 percent of children will exit Foster Care within 24 months of entering - either through reunification with family or adoption
- 50 percent of those in foster care are adopted within 24 months, exceeding the national standard of 37 percent
- 75.2 percent of children will be reunified with their family within 12 months, equaling the national standard
All children exiting foster do so with a permanent family connection
- 95 percent of all children will exit foster care in a permanent placement - adoption, reunification
- All children exiting foster care will do so with permanent connection
DCFS studied current practices, as well as past performance, to identify strategies that will have significant, positive impact on key outcomes for children in foster care.
"DCFS's overarching focus is to keep children safe," said Sonnier. "We will build partnerships with a variety of organizations that can assist us in accomplishing our mission, use existing best practices and tools and drive performance to continue to improve the way we provide services."
The agency will phase delivery of the program over three years beginning immediately and extending to 2015. The initiatives that directly impact children currently in the foster care system will launch in 2013, while 2014 and 2015 will bring enhancements and performance monitoring.
In 2012, DCFS served slightly more than 7,300 children in foster care. At any one time, there are around 3,900 children in the foster care system. Nearly 200 children will age out of foster care in the next year.
Today's announcement follows a record year for DCFS in adoptions. Last Year, DCFS saw a record number of children, 652 in total, adopted by 468 families. Today, there are 638 children who are immediately eligible for adoption. DCFS features profiles of foster children eligible for adoption on its website, www.dcfs.louisiana.gov .
Today's launch also builds on recent successes over the past seven years by DCFS in reducing the number of children in foster care, reducing the number of children in residential care and increasing the number of adoptions statewide.
Since 2005, DCFS has decreased the average length of stay of children in foster care from 27.05 months in June 2005 to 18.71 months in February 2013. During that same period, the number of children housed in residential type facilities decreased from 669 in June 2005 to 245 in February 2013, a decrease of 63 percent.
In the past five years, DCFS has reduced the number of children in Foster Care from 5,128 in April 2007 to 4,007 in February 2013, a reduction of 22 percent.