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DSS to Recommend Revocation of Child Residential Licenses

BATON ROUGE - As part of continued efforts to reform child residential care in Louisiana, the Department of Children & Family Services (DSS) will recommend the revocation of licenses for two child residential facilities due to deficiencies and failure to meet licensing standards.

"We do not take these recommendations lightly," DSS Secretary Kristy Nichols said. "As part of our efforts to reform child residential care in Louisiana, we must hold these facilities to a standard that ensures that children are in a safe environment and that a continuity of care exists."

DSS officials will recommend that Novice House of Tallulah and Sanctuary Boys of Eunice each have their licenses revoked at a meeting of the Louisiana Advisory Committee on Child Care Facilities and Child Placing Agencies on Wednesday. The meeting will be held at the Department of Children & Family Services beginning at 10:30 a.m.

The Committee is comprised of 20 members representing child day care facilities, residential facilities, foster care placement and adoption services, child care consumers, educators and other professionals. Although DSS' Bureau of Residential Licensing is responsible for licensing the facilities, it can only make recommendations to the Committee. Once the Committee acts on revocation, the facilities have 30 days to appeal.

Last year DSS identified 13 child residential facilities that failed to meet specific thresholds as part of a safety and risk assessment. Those facilities, which included Sanctuary Boys, signed corrective action plans in October of last year and agreed to implement those plans within 90 days.

Nichols also announced in October that DSS would conduct a comprehensive review of all the residential facilities licensed by the department -- both child and adult residential facilities, with an interagency team focusing on and visiting child facilities within 90 days.

As part of that review, DSS representatives inspected Novice House on December 11 and discovered 34 previous deficiencies that had not been corrected and one new deficiency. Some of the deficiencies date back to September 2006 and include incidents such as not developing treatment plans for residents and failing to conduct fire drills. Novice House's license was set to expire on Sept. 20, 2009.

According to DSS officials, the nine foster children who are at the facility are in the process of being relocated to other residential facilities or foster homes.

On December 2, DSS licensing representatives visited Sanctuary Boys and found 22 deficiencies, including failure to maintain records and failure to provide first aid training to new employees. There are currently seven children under the care of the Office of Juvenile Justice (OJJ) at the facility, whose license was set to expire on March 31, 2009.

At the end of October 2008, DSS announced that the agency would implement a series of reforms to child residential care in Louisiana to ensure continuity of care and the safety of children in residential facilities, including:

  • Developing Corrective Action Plans with identified facilities (completed)
  • Developing steps for implementation of Corrective Action Plans within 90 days (completed)
  • Reviewing existing and proposed licensing standards (ongoing)
  • Reviewing of licenses of each child facility (ongoing)
  • Reorganizing the licensure department at DSS (ongoing)
  • Initiating the formation of a licensure task force (ongoing)
  • Conducting a survey of all child residential facilities within the next 90 days (ongoing)
Nichols has started reorganizing the licensure department at DSS by putting a new management structure in place, doubling the number of licensing staff in the field, and providing additional training for license specialists.

In addition, the first meeting of the licensure task force was held last week, with another meeting scheduled for Friday. As part of these reforms, the Task Force is charged with reviewing existing and proposed licensing requirements for child residential facilities and making recommendations to the Secretary of the Department of Children & Family Services. Members include advocates and providers, as well as state agency partners.