An update session was held today for the Platform for Louisiana Children.
The event, "Investing In Louisiana's Children: The Progress We've Made and The Road Ahead" was held today at SLCC featuring presentations from the state Children and Family Services department, the Center for Minority Excellence and the Louisiana Budget Project.
The Louisiana Platform for Children was launched in 2015 to give policymakers an outline of policies that organizers felt 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.
Platform objectives include:
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.
“We’ve seen tremendous progress for children in Louisiana since we’ve made these policy priorities measurable indicators of success,” said Susan East Nelson, Executive Director of the Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families. “By focusing policy priorities on what we know will create the best outcomes for children, we’ve been able to help Louisiana families create the best outcomes for children.”
The Platform has mapped out recommendations for the road ahead to maintain the progress made on these policy objectives. Those recommendations include:
• We must continue to protect Medicaid for Louisiana families and begin to focus on health outcomes for children by increasing health, safety, and developmental screenings for EVERY Louisiana child.
• We must provide opportunities for ALL families to have access to the quality child care and after school programs needed to enrich their children while parents remain a productive part of Louisiana’s workforce.
• We must expand home visiting, parent education programs, and IECHM programs to reduce Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and improve early child wellbeing for ALL Louisiana families.
• We must continue to fund services to families of children with developmental disabilities and ensure that EVERY child has the opportunity to grow and thrive in the environment that is best for them and their family.
• We must continue funding to protect children, support struggling families, and ensure additional state funding is available to implement the federal Family First Prevention Services Act.
• We must continue to fund services to invest in the juvenile justice system by improving the rehabilitative services provided to youth offenders and giving them a greater opportunity to remake their lives.
• We must invest in Louisiana’s working families to ensure financial stability so that no Louisiana family is forced to be ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed).
• We must continue to invest state funds in the evidenced-based programs that net the largest return of federal dollars so that the state can keep more of the dollars paid by Louisiana citizens.
For more information about the Platform and the development of the new release, visit www.louisianapartnership.org/PlatformforChildren.