Governor’s Office of Disability Affairs
The Governor’s Office of Disability Affairs purview is all disability issues across an individual’s lifespan. The Office of the First Lady focuses, in part, on children in foster care through Louisiana Fosters, so it was a natural fit to partner on an initiative to improve and strengthen coordination of supports and services for foster children with disabilities and their families. Having a child with a disability can have many challenges, but the challenges compound for children in foster care.
This initiative will increase collaboration across state agencies that provided supports and services for foster children with disabilities. The partnership has begun with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH). The next steps will be to include the Louisiana Department of Education and the Office of Juvenile Justice.
While work at the state level regarding policies and procedures is essential, the most critical work is at the individual level. For this reason, this initiative will focus on developing regional collaboratives across agencies. These collaboratives will include the regional DCFS office, human services district, Office of Public Health, Medicaid, Early Steps, Office of Juvenile Justice, local education agency, Families Helping Families, and other local and regional partners. The collaborative will help to build cross-agency relationships and will provide cross-agency training.
We know that experience matters, so the initiative will create an advisory group of foster and adoptive families who also have experience with disabilities. This advisory group will help by sharing their real experiences and developing recommendations of how to better support families of foster children with disabilities and support the birth families of the children who can be reunited with them. The advisory group will also survey other foster and adoptive families with experience with children with disabilities.
Our hope is this initiative will bring awareness of the need of foster families for children with disabilities and create opportunities to network within the disability community to recruit potential foster parents experienced with children with disabilities and experienced people willing to provide respite for foster families.
The initiative aims to grow the support network to foster families and birth families of children with disabilities by partnering with non-profit and community organizations that support children with disabilities in foster care.