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Louisiana’s Legislature Requires an Office of Children’s Ombuds

It is always best that state legislatures are never surprised when systemic failures harm their state’s children. States must have mechanisms to keep the Legislature currently informed of the state’s services for children and their successes and failures. The sooner a legislature has access to this system-level information, the more quickly it may respond to inadequate care, gaps in services, and harms created by state offices, departments, and agencies.

Louisiana’s Legislature requires that our state create an independent Office of Children’s Ombuds to ensure the Legislature receives current, objective information about Louisiana’s public child-serving agencies.

Louisiana’s Legislature oversees and funds the services the State of Louisiana provides to children and families. Louisiana’s Legislature, and ultimately all our citizens, would benefit if an independent, objective, transparent Office of Children’s Ombuds informed lawmakers.

Without an Office of Children’s Ombuds, Louisiana’s Legislature has no official “eyes and ears” for proactively monitoring the state’s services for children. Rather than gaining objective knowledge of troublesome conditions early and responding proactively, the Legislature finds itself responding reactively to events that bring state agencies, the Legislature, and the Governor into the glare of the public spotlight. The need for active oversight and corrective actions is always present, but the on-the-ground reports of an Ombuds’ observations are never available in Louisiana.

During the October 20, 2022, Senate Health and Welfare Committee meeting 9 with the administration of Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services, members of the Committee seemed surprised by information and details provided in recent news reports, especially one published that morning. Lawmakers should be able to monitor service trends, citizen complaints, and quality by reviewing the annual reports provided by an Office of Children’s Ombuds.

The best surprise in October 20 meeting could have been no surprise if an Office of Children’s Ombuds had routinely provided objective reports from the field to the entire Legislature and Louisiana’s citizens. The information would have been in hand, trends identified beforehand, and possibly, corrected before degenerating into devastating events.

Louisiana’s Legislature needs the work of an Office of Children’s Ombudsman to inform its oversight of state agencies and prevent the devolving conditions in the Office of Juvenile Justice, local detention centers, the Department of Children and Family Services, the Office of Citizens with Developmental Disabilities, and other child services agencies and providers.

Read the child advocacy paper, Louisiana Requires an Office of Children’s Ombuds, to learn more about ombudsperson services for children.

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