As it often does regarding the Department of Children and Family Services, former Governor Jindal’s name popped up in Louisiana news this week in stories about children poorly protected by DCFS. We did not get here today, it’s been a long decline.
It is hard to dispute the Jindal administration’s drastic impact on Louisiana’s child welfare system, but in my opinion, those who still blame Jindal alone for the current condition of DCFS are forgetting the last six years. Governor Jindal’s term ended on January 11, 2016.
Indeed, during the Jindal administration, DCFS was devastated by unprecedented budget cuts and staff reductions. Few point out today that Louisiana’s Legislature has passed six state budgets since Governor Jindal left office. Yet, after six years, DCFS has not been restored to a viable status.
You know the past. Governor Jindal’s administration cut DCFS staff by 33% and cut DCFS’s annual budget from about $1.2 billion to $681 million. Remember, while Jindal still makes the news for these reductions, Louisiana’s Legislature approved them.
At the same time, we cannot ignore that even after six annual budget cycles since the end of Governor Jindal’s administration, Louisiana’s Legislature has not yet corrected, restored, and strengthened DCFS.
I submit that Louisiana’s citizens will know their elected officials are serious about the well-being of our children when DCFS and OJJ have all the resources necessary – staff, facilities, and funds – to do their vital work on behalf of Louisiana’s children.
No one should imagine that simply funding DCFS and OJJ to their former levels will be the ultimate solution. Inflation is real. Also, even back when Louisiana supported DCFS, Louisiana lacked vital elements necessary for a sound child well-being system. For example, Louisiana is one of the few states with no Ombuds for children.
Louisiana’s Legislature knows how to support efforts that are important for our future. Recently, Louisiana approved spending $50 billion over 50 years for erosion work. More than sand or soil, I believe our children are more critical to Louisiana’s future.