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"Licensing juvenile detention facilities is all about the safety of the children in these facilities," said DCFS Secretary Suzy Sonnier. "Before today, Louisiana did not have quality standards for these facilities to meet in order to ensure the well-being of the children in these facilities. We are correcting that today."
State licensing of juvenile detention facilities became state law in 2010, after legislation sponsored by former state Representative Damon Baldone (D-Houma) was signed by Governor Bobby Jindal. R.S. 15:1110 establishes statewide standards for juvenile detention facilities, ensures maintenance of standards and requires facilities to be licensed.
DCFS worked with representatives from juvenile justice, public safety and corrections organizations, state government and stakeholders to develop uniform licensing standards.
"Creating, adopting and preparing for these new standards has been a journey that has lasted two and a half years," said Dane Bolin, Director of the Calcasieu Parish Office of Juvenile Justice Services and chairman of the committee that helped created the licensing standards. "I have witnessed how these standards have raised the bar in all facilities across the state, creating a safer facility for both staff and juveniles. It has been a pleasure working with local, state, and national groups to achieve this goal."
"We are thrilled to see these juvenile detention standards be fully in effect, after years of hard work on the part of so many stakeholders across the state of Louisiana," said Dana Kaplan, Executive Director of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana. "This was a truly collaborative process, and it was an honor to work alongside the juvenile detention administrators, DCFS, and all of the members of the task force to develop a set of licensing standards of which Louisiana can be very proud. The development and creation of these juvenile detention center standards is one of our state's most recent, and significant, accomplishments in this regard."
In 2012, after developing regulations, the DCFS Licensing Unit began working closely with Louisiana's 15 juvenile detention facilities to prepare them for the licensing process. Before July 1, 2013, facilities were required only to meet fire marshal and health department approvals.
"We worked closely with the facilities to make sure they understood the regulations, and provided training and technical assistance where necessary," said Sonnier. "It has been a good process and the facilities have worked well with DCFS to meet all standards and request waivers where needed."
DCFS conducted onsite consultations with facility staff last year in order to prepare them for official inspections. Facilities were also able to apply for waivers for deficiencies that did not impact the health or safety of the children in the facilities. Most waivers dealt with existing building facilities that would be prohibitively expensive to change, such as ceiling heights.
The 60-page licensing standards document, which is available on DCFS' website, spells out requirements for the facilities to receive a license, ranging from staff training, child-to-staff-member ratios and nutrition and health services, to policies for visitation, behavior management, education and recreation. Each facility will be subject to inspection at least once a year in order to maintain its license.
As of today, 15 facilities in the state are now licensed:
- Assumption Parish Youth Detention Center, Napoleonville
- Caddo Parish Juvenile Detention Center, Shreveport
- Calcasieu Parish Office of Juvenile Justice Services, Lake Charles
- Community Receiving Home, Inc. d/b/a Renaissance, Alexandria
- East Baton Rouge Parish Juvenile Detention Center, Baton Rouge
- Florida Parishes Juvenile Detention Center, Covington
- Green Oaks Juvenile Detention Center, Monroe
- Lafayette Juvenile Detention Home, Lafayette
- Lafourche Parish Juvenile Justice Facility, Thibodaux
- Rivarde Juvenile Detention Facility, Harvey
- St. Bernard Parish Juvenile Detention Center, Chalmette
- Terrebonne Parish Juvenile Detention Center, Houma
- Ware Youth Center, Coushatta
- Ware Youth Center, Bossier City
- Youth Study Center (New Orleans Juvenile Detention Center), New Orleans
"The local and parish detention centers are key components in the overall continuum of care for juvenile justice-involved youth," said Office of Juvenile Justice Deputy Secretary Dr. Mary L. Livers. "Standards for care and services developed for juvenile detention centers will ensure that youth remain safe and receive needed programming during their stay. At OJJ, we applaud the good work done by DCFS and the detention centers themselves, in developing and implementing the standards and ensuring that all detention centers in Louisiana meet and comply with them. This is a win-win situation for Louisiana's at-risk youth and the citizens of our state."
Juvenile detention facilities will pay annual licensing fees based on number of occupants. Facilities with six or fewer juveniles pay $400, while facilities with at least seven, but no more than 15 pay $500. Facilities that hold more than 16 occupants pay $600. This fee structure is the same as the child residential program, also licensed by DCFS. Only one facility currently has a capacity of fewer than 16 residents.