Investing In Louisiana’s Children

Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families — The organizers of the Platform along with local organizations hosted an event at the United Way of Central Louisiana today to bring together those interested in outcomes for children to discuss the progress made on platform issues and the road ahead to improve outcomes for all Louisiana’s children. The event featured and update on the Platform policy initiatives.

The Louisiana Platform for Children was launched in 2015 to give policymakers an outline of policies that represented the best evidenced-based programs available for the well-being of all children. The original platform focused on eight key areas for children’s policy: physical health and development; early care and education; social/emotional development; developmental disabilities; child welfare systems; juvenile justice; family economic stability and Louisiana’s budget for children. The progress toward Platform objectives includes:

Medicaid Expansion – Louisiana now leads the nation with the third highest rate of children with health insurance (nearly 97% percent) thanks to the expansion of Medicaid enacted in 2016. The benefits for children and families are extraordinary according to the Georgetown Center for Children and Families.

State Funding for Early Childhood for the First Time in 10 Years – Louisiana funded $19 million in new state financing for early childhood education. Those funds replace lost federal funding to keep current student levels in a pre-K program for at-risk 4-year-olds and also pay for child care assistance for 1,450 children ages birth to three who are on the recently created Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) waiting list. CCAP is a program helping low-income working families access quality child care while supporting community-based small businesses who care for children.

Zero to Three Focus – Louisiana prioritized statewide funding for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (IECHMH) consultation in home visiting and began development of a statewide perinatal consultation program (telepsychiatry) within the Department of Health. The Governor’s Children’s Cabinet Advisory Board continues to recommend young child wellbeing supports for families.

Eligibility for Early Steps, TEFRA Option & Elimination of State Waitlist for Services – The state has opened the doors for families who struggle to provide services for their children with developmental

challenges by creating an option that makes the child eligible for Medicaid regardless of family income. The state has also appropriated funds to restore previous eligibility for Early Steps giving families access to more of the services they need. Due to advocacy efforts by parents, the state reorganized waiver services and eliminated the state waiting lists for disability services after years of cuts.

Protecting Children and Strengthening Families – Louisiana has reorganized DCFS to return to an evidence-based approach for providing child welfare services and introduced the Quality Parenting Initiative which allows for an innovative way of providing services and supports to families. The state also has raised the age for children to leave foster care to 21 assuring that they will be better prepared to live independently while increasing the number of teens adopted last year by more than 30 percent over the previous year.

Raise The Age – In 2016, child advocates successfully advocated to raise the age to 18 for youth to be placed in the adult justice system. As of March 1, 2019, 17-year-old nonviolent offenders were included in the juvenile justice system. On July 1, 2020, all 17-year olds charged with any offense will be included in the juvenile justice system.

Building Family Self-Sufficiency – Louisiana increased the Earned Income Tax Credit from 3.5 to 5 percent, which affected more than 480,000 households and returned $21 million to low-income working families with children. When Medicaid coverage was extended to adults in 2016, children benefited as well as their parents were healthier and more financially secure.

Stable Budget Means More Resources – After years of annual and mid-year budget cuts, Louisiana has had three consecutive years of stable funding that has allowed for new investments in children’s health, safety, welfare, and education. A stable budget means that families are more likely to have the support they need for their children to reach their full potential.

“The Central Louisiana area is made up of many small communities, some urban and some rural. Each has its own unique sense of identity. Legislative issues, however, affect us all, and they affect the dynamics that exist in every community, one way or another,” said David Britt, Executive Director of the United Way of Central Louisiana. “My sense is that everyone understands that children and youth face new challenges today, and we as a community have to work with the legislature in a unified way to help them understand the issues and how various potential strategies will affect us.”