The following is a press release from the Department of Social Services:
Reorganization, service delivery improvements and increased child support collections are the main focus of 15 bills that make up the Department of Social Services (DSS) Legislative Package, which Louisiana lawmakers will consider during the 2010 legislative session.
"Our legislative package aims to improve our services, streamline our agency and allow us to work more efficiently for Louisiana's children and families," said DSS Secretary Kristy Nichols. "The bills that will be introduced are focused on our core services -- those services that keep children safe and help families become self-sufficient."
The 15 bills in the DSS Legislative Package address issues such as restructuring the agency's organizational operations, the transfer of certain functions to other state agencies, protecting children in DSS-licensed child care facilities, training of child welfare workers, fostering relationships between non-custodial parents and children and increasing collections of unpaid child support.
The following bills are included in the DSS Legislative Package:
This bill transfers to the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) and the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) the components of Louisiana Rehabilitation Services that align with the long-term, strategic goals of those agencies. For example, Vocational Rehabilitation Services will transfer to LWC and the Independent Living Program will transfer to DHH. Individuals with disabilities will benefit from LWC's focus on assisting people to find jobs. These individuals also will have greater access to support services administered by DHH.
HB 1198 by Rep. Kay Katz
Streamlining Recommendations and Transfers
The purpose of this legislation is to re-create DSS and all statutory operations, which are set to terminate on June 30, 2010, as a result of the Sunset law. It recreates the department by extending its cessation date to July 1, 2015, allowing the department to continue to be responsible for the development and provision of social services and the improvement of social conditions for citizens of Louisiana.
This bill protects children in child care centers and other facilities licensed by DSS by allowing the agency to fine entities that do not comply with licensing standards. It gives DSS non-compliance sanction authority for licensing. Currently, DSS is limited to denying applications, non-renewal of licenses, license revocation or continuing to cite non-compliance.
SB 634 by Sen. Lydia Jackson
This legislation removes the requirement that OCS be licensed as a child placing agency. Because DSS already has statutory authority to place youth, the language which requires this should be removed.
Support Enforcement Services
The passage of this measure will assist the department in collecting child support arrears that currently exceed $1 billion by allowing the interception of gaming winnings of $1,200 or more when the winner has a child support case with arrears. The collection of child support arrears will help those children and families who are in most need of support. Several states including Mississippi, Indiana, New Jersey, New Mexico and West Virginia have enacted or introduced similar legislation. The State of Colorado collected more than $500,000 in one year with a similar law.
SB 53 by Sen. Nick Gautreaux