Today, First Lady Donna Edwards is launching a new initiative to connect foster parents with the support systems they need in their communities. This statewide campaign will link government, faith groups, nonprofit organizations, businesses and community members to create a united network of support for Louisiana’s foster care system.
“Louisiana’s foster children are our children – yours and mine – and it is our responsibility to provide what they need,” said Edwards. “That means ensuring those who take care of these children, who open their homes and hearts to them, have the resources they need to provide stability and guidance.”
The First Lady’s initiative builds on the Quality Parenting Initiative (QPI) that the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) launched last year to change the way the state recruits and trains foster parents. QPI promotes quality care for children in foster care by redefining the expectations and roles of caregivers while strengthening the system and providing resources and tools.
Information about the First Lady’s initiative, including partnership ideas and resources, can be found on the newly unveiled website at www.LouisianaFosters.la.gov.
“Louisiana Fosters is a perfect marriage of QPI and the community supports that our foster parents need,” said DCFS Secretary Marketa Garner Walters. “It takes more than government to truly care for our children. Louisiana Fosters is building a supportive network to help take care of our foster parents and the children they care for every day.”
DCFS served a total of 7,808 children in foster care during the 2017 fiscal year, with about 4,300 children placed with 2,250 foster families on any given day. Those families, and others like them who are willing and eager to open their homes to our children, often need help meeting a child’s immediate needs – with a bed or crib, diapers or school supplies – as well as more long-term support.
“Not everyone can be a foster parent, but everyone has something to offer,” Walters said. “Whether that means sponsoring a child’s dance lessons or little league sports equipment, providing childcare for a foster parent’s night out, offering low-cost office space to an organization that helps foster families or leave time to a family who fosters, there is something everyone can do to help.”
A luncheon Friday at the Governor’s Mansion brought together stakeholders from across the state to hear what some DCFS partners already are doing to support the state’s foster care system. First Lady Donna Edwards then charged those in attendance to mobilize and use those inspiring messages to seek out ways of helping the foster families in their communities.
One group already supporting foster families in the New Orleans region is Crossroads NOLA, a faith-based nonprofit created in 2013 to help DCFS find families to care for the 4,000-plus children in foster care. The group focuses on the improvement of child well-being through collaboration among local churches, government agencies and other child-welfare stakeholders.
“I am thrilled to see the First Lady bringing our faith communities to the table to help foster families,” said Kim Carver, a Crossroads NOLA board member and a foster/ adoptive dad. “This is our calling, and we’ve seen much success in our work with foster parents through Crossroads NOLA.”
Other partners of the foster care system include:
- HP Serve, which aims to better prepare foster youth for exiting successfully into adulthood.
- Northshore Enduring Hope, the Covington region’s first and only foster parent support group.
- James Storehouse, which fulfills emergency requests to expedite safe placement for foster children and provides resources to help aged-out youth transition to life on their own.
- Geaux 4 Kids, which helps meet foster families’ immediate needs when they take in children on behalf of the state.
- Open Table, a faith-based model for drawing congregations and community members together to lend life experience, expertise and guidance.
“This is exactly what our foster care system has needed, and I am thrilled to see Louisiana be so bold in taking this statewide,” said former appellate judge Madeleine Landrieu, an early champion of QPI in Louisiana and co-founder, with Carver, of the Louisiana Institute for Children in Families.
“As a juvenile court judge, I am already seeing the difference QPI makes as foster parents come into my courtroom,” said Judge Blair Edwards, of the 21st Judicial District, one of the first jurisdictions in the state to pilot QPI. “When they are treated as partners with staff, it enhances the quality of care for our foster children.”