Department of Social Services, Building a Stronger Louisiana - Kristy H. Nichols, Secretary

April 24, 2009

Dear Stakeholder,

The Department of Social Services (DSS) Legislative Package for the upcoming session looks to ensure that Louisiana's children and families are safe, thriving and self-sufficient.

Specifically, the DSS Legislative Package focuses on protecting children and providing that all children are living in safe and nurturing environments. The legislation outlined herein addresses the health and safety of children in child care settings, foster care, residential facilities and at home. These measures provide for heightened screening and background checks for employees whose duties include child protection and child care and increase protection from sexual predators with records of abusing our youngest and most vulnerable population. In addition, the DSS legislative package continues our efforts to realign and streamline our business practices in order improve customer service and the outcomes of our services for our clients.

The following bills are included in the Governor Jindal's Sexual Predator Package:

  • SB 238 by Sen. Willie Mount - Abolish Child Care Licensing Committees
    • This legislation abolishes the Louisiana Advisory Committee on Licensing of Child Care Facilities and Child Placing Agencies and the Louisiana Committee on Private Child Care and provides DSS with sole authority to promulgate rules and make decisions on denial/revocation of child care licenses.
  • HB 476 by Rep. Patrick Connick - Protection of Children
    • This legislation prohibits sexual offenders who victimize minor children from accessing and/or participating in the governance of a child care or residential care facility and restricts employability of such offenders in these locations.
  • HB 703 by Rep. Kay Katz - Criminal Background Checks
    • This legislation requires fingerprinting and federal criminal background checks for all prospective employees of DSS employees whose duties include investigation of child abuse or neglect, the supervisory or disciplinary authority over children, direct care of a child or performance of licensing surveys. This legislation also authorizes DSS to conduct an assessment of the impact and cost of conducting national criminal history records checks on potential owners, operators, employees, and volunteers of a child care or child residential facility licensed by the department and develop a statewide implementation plan prior to requesting that funds be appropriated for conducting such searches.
  • HB 784 by Rep. Kay Katz - State Central Registry
    • This legislation prohibits the employment by DSS of an individual whose duties involve children, if the individual's name is recorded on the state central registry for justified abuse or neglect. This legislation also authorizes DSS to conduct an assessment of the impact and cost of utilizing the information on the central registry of abuse and neglect reports to prohibit individuals from owning, operating, being employed by or volunteering at a child care or child residential facility licensed by the department.

In addition, DSS will be requesting your support on the following:

  • SB 137 by Sen. Lydia Jackson - Bureau of Residential License Transfer to the Office of Community Services (OCS)
    • To provide for continuity of services and alignment with the functions and mission of the OCS, this legislation transfers the Bureau of Residential Licensing responsibilities and duties to license child residential facilities, foster care, adoption placing agencies, emergency shelters, maternity homes and transitional living facilities form the DSS Office of the Secretary to the DSS Office of Community Services.
  • SB 230 by Sen. Buddy Shaw - Medical Insurance Data Match & Redirecting Child Support Payments Via Income Assignment
    • This legislation provides for two important changes to child support enforcement. It provides for electronic data matching and cooperation between DSS and health insurance companies in Louisiana to facilitate enrollment of children in health insurance policies. This bill also provides a process for administrative correction of income assignment orders so that child support payments may be redirected to the centralized collection unit without having DSS or the parent to incur additional legal and court costs.
  • SB 279 by Rep. Mike Walsworth - State Funded Facilities in Disasters
    • This legislation provides for the use of any public facility, or other facilities owned or leased by the state or local governments to be made available for use as a sheltering facility during emergency situations and to define the public facilities that will be designated to provide for related matters.
  • HB 590 by Regina Barrow - Educational Stability
    • In response to the recently passed federal legislation -- Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 -- this legislation when in the best interest of the child, will allow children entering foster care to remain in the same school they are attending at the time of the removal from their family regardless of the district or parish boundaries.
  • HB 600 by Rep. Robert Johnson - Self Employment Determination of Income
    • This bill gives additional guidance to the courts in determining income from self-employment when setting child support orders. This measure assists them in determining when self-employment income is concealed or under-reported. It also allows the court to look at the standard of living of the party, as well as his or her assets.
  • HB 728 by Rep. John Schroder - Transfer of Adult Residential Licensing
    • To appropriately align programmatic and policy expertise, this legislation transfers regulatory authority from DSS to the Department of Health and Hospitals for all adult residential care facilities, which includes assisted living facilities, personal care homes and shelter care homes.

My staff and I look forward to continuing to work with you during the upcoming legislative session as the Legislature takes up this important legislation. If you have any questions, concerns or suggestions regarding the DSS legislative package, please contact Marie Brown Mercadel at (225) 342-0286.

Best Regards,

Kristy Nichols
627 N. Fourth St. | Baton Rouge, LA 70802 | PH: (225) 342-0286 | FX: (225) 342-8636 |

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