Governor Edwards has signed legislation to create an office to advocate on behalf of children under the care of the Department of Children and Family Services and the Office of Juvenile Justice. Bill author Baton Rouge Senator Regina Barrow said the Office of State Child Ombudsman will be an independent office serving under the Legislative Auditor’s Office.
“That way it has complete autonomy in terms of how it would operate, and it would be able to serve as the voice that we intended it to be,” says Barrow.
Both agencies have been under fire after three children died despite warnings to DCFS and multiple escapes from the OJJ. Barrow said the bill received unanimous support and Louisiana joins 38 other states that have such an office.
“And the states that have this in place the outcomes are much better,” said Barrow.
Barrow said the office will also assist parents or individuals who are facing accusations of child abuse or endangerment. The Child Ombudsman Office will help those parents navigate the system.
“It serves as a double-edged sword for those who have committed or harmed their children in some way and then it helps other parents who have been falsely accused,” said Barrow.
Barrow said several child advocacy groups assisted with the legislation and the office is expected to be in effect in a few months.