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BATON ROUGE, LA - The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) was named the inaugural recipient of Code for America’s Government Changemaker Award Tuesday at the organization’s annual summit in Washington, D.C. The recognition underscores DCFS’s commitment to leveraging technology and innovation to better serve Louisiana’s children and families.
Code for America is a nonprofit organization focused on human-centered technology solutions that increase access to government services and programs. The Government Changemaker Award recognizes an individual or group that has applied a digital solution to a government system that improves community access.
“Code for America and Louisiana DCFS have been working shoulder to shoulder to surface innovative opportunities for the mindful use of technology in the benefits journey," said Amanda Renteria, CEO of Code for America. "We are thrilled this collaboration is improving equity for clients and lightening caseworkers’ loads throughout the state. Louisiana DCFS is showing what’s possible when agencies embrace human-centered government principles to deliver real solutions.”
In its announcement, Code for America also credited text messages sent by DCFS with helping SNAP recipients claim valuable tax credits in outreach promoted by Code for America and The White House. “Messages sent by the state of Louisiana led over 4,000 Louisianans to file tax returns using GetCTC, claiming over $4 million in tax credits. Most of these messages were sent by DCFS, who reached out to beneficiaries throughout 2022. Their leadership shows the promise and power of cross-agency collaboration in promoting these critical government benefits.”
“This award highlights our commitment as a state to ensure every Louisianan has access to the programs and services they need,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards. “Removing barriers to help families is vital, and I congratulate Sec. Ricks and her team for the tremendous work they have done in making this information available and accessible so that families have what they need right at their fingertips.”
“The Government Changemaker award represents opportunity and access for the Louisiana residents we serve with benefits, and that means everything to us,” said DCFS Secretary Terri Ricks. “We are always working to improve access to services, so our partnership with Code for America has been invaluable.”
DCFS’s collaboration with Code for America started in 2019, with the launch of the LA’Message pilot, a one-way text messaging service that broadcast notifications to benefit recipients at critical points throughout the enrollment and renewal process. Under the leadership of Ricks, then Deputy Secretary, DCFS expanded the efforts to modernize operations, streamlining processes that empower staff to better serve Louisiana’s families and children and improve the quality of life for those residents.
“Partnering with Code for America in the LA’Message pilot provided indisputable evidence that texting reminders can make the difference between a struggling household keeping their benefits or falling further behind,” Ricks said. “We’ve since expanded our efforts to include texting for all SNAP, DSNAP and TANF recipients. There’s no doubt the work this partnership has inspired has meant a more efficient process for our staff and greater access to information and opportunities for those we serve.”
Capitalizing on the success of the LA’Message pilot, Louisiana secured permission from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service to send text messages directly to all SNAP clients. Using the RAVE Alert platform by RAVE Mobile Safety, the Department sent nearly 80 million text messages since 2020, reaching as many as 675,452 recipients at one time and delivering vital information during the COVID-19 pandemic and multiple hurricanes about food assistance, disaster-related assistance, rental assistance and other resources.
DCFS is continuing its partnership with Code for America by creating and implementing three projects designed to improve recipients’ experiences: a document uploader, an expanded texting campaign, and a digital assistant. Louisiana was among one of the first states selected last May to participate in Code for America’s Safety Net Innovation Lab. Through this new partnership, DCFS is working to improve its online benefits application portal and the SNAP benefits application process.
Assistant Secretary for Family Support Ashley Sias said human-centered design is at the center of the Department's work with Code for America.
“Not only are we giving the residents we serve a better user experience, but our caseworkers will be able to process cases more efficiently, lightening the load on them by freeing up time and reducing churn,” Sias said. “Louisiana is on its way to becoming more poverty informed, and this pilot allows us to meet people where they are.”
About the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services
DCFS is the state agency responsible for keeping children safe, helping individuals and families become self-sufficient and providing refuge during disasters. The Division of Family Support administers the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps), Workforce Development, Child Support Enforcement, Disability Determination Services, and federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds. The Child Welfare Division manages Child Protection Investigations, Family Services, Foster Care and Adoption Services. Through its Division of Emergency Preparedness and Response, DCFS supports the state's disaster response and recovery functions that involve evacuation, sheltering, emergency food assistance and human services. For more information, visit www.dcfs.la.gov.
About Code for America
Code for America, a nonprofit founded in 2009, believes that government can work for the people, and by the people, in the digital age. We work with government at all levels across the country to make the delivery of public services equitable with technology. Together with thousands of volunteers across over 80 Brigade chapters in the U.S., we work with community organizations and governments to build digital tools, change policies, and improve programs. Our goal: a resilient government that effectively and equitably serves everyone. Learn more at www.codeforamerica.org.