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  • July 20, 2023 4:31 PM | Susan East Nelson (Administrator)

    On Thursday, July 20, Partnership Executive Director Susan East Nelson was a member of a panel to talk about children and families after the 2023 Legislative Session with the participants of the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law and United Way of Southeast Louisiana's Nancy M. Marsiglia Institute of Justice Alumni Association Washington, D.C. Fly-In.

    The panel focused on legislative advances for children and the impacts of the upcoming election. Susan East Nelson was joined by Libbie Sonnier, Executive Director of the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children, Jan Moller, Executive Director of the Louisiana Budget Project, and Melissa Flournoy, Board President and Peter Robins-Brown, Executive Director of Louisiana Progress.

    The three-day fly-in included meetings with Louisiana's Members of Congress and Biden Administration executives Mitch Landrieu and Shalanda Young.

  • June 20, 2023 4:10 PM | Susan East Nelson (Administrator)

    Passage of children's ombudsman bill puts Louisiana in line with majority of states

    By Advocate Staff Writer Andrea Gallo

    Children in the care of Louisiana’s foster homes, juvenile prisons, health facilities and more will soon have a new voice in state government to advocate for them and to push for change based on their complaints.

    Louisiana lawmakers unanimously passed Senate Bill 137 to create an Office of the State Child Ombudsman, which will monitor agencies that serve children and recommend changes to state laws and policies to promote child welfare. The new law, which Gov. John Bel Edwards signed June 12, comes after a series of controversies rocked the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services and the Office of Juvenile Justice.

    Multiple children died after DCFS staffers did not promptly respond to warnings that the children were in danger, while adolescents in juvenile prisons alleged that guards attacked, raped and otherwise abused them. Top leaders at both agencies resigned amid the crisis, with both saying their workers faced insurmountable difficulties with low pay and short staffing.

    Louisiana has been out of step with the rest of the nation in lacking an independent watchdog for children to evaluate complaints from the public. At least 38 other states have ombudsman services for children, according to the National Center for State Legislatures. Rick Wheat, the president of Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services, says the number is even higher and that the five states ranked worst nationally for child well-being are also the only five that lack a children’s ombudsman.

    “Now we have someone who can serve as an independent third eye or a voice for those individuals and tell us legislators where there might be some unforeseen gaps,” said state Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, who sponsored the bill.

    Lawmakers had initially proposed placing the ombudsman in Edwards’ office, but later put the position under the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s purview. The amendment came after concerns about whether an ombudsman appointed by the governor would be able to independently evaluate other agency officials who are also appointed by the governor.

    Barrow said housing the role in the auditor’s office should give it more independence. The state operating budget has yet to catch up, though, and still lists the $293,877 allocated for the ombudsman office under the executive branch.

    Legislative Auditor Mike Waguespack said he expects the Legislature to transfer the money to his office. Once they do, he expects to create a new division.

    “The challenge for us is to make sure we make the right hire,” Waguespack said. “We’re glad to be part of hopefully creating a better practice and objectively, independently overseeing problems with this.”

    Challenges of creating new system

    Building such an office from the ground up is a major undertaking, said Matthew Bernstein, who was appointed four months ago to a similar role as Vermont’s first child, youth and family advocate. He said there has been pent-up demand in Vermont.

    “One thing that’s become clear is that a function of this office is listening to people,” he said.

    Bernstein said part of the challenge is to stitch together individual stories to push for broader systemic changes.

    Louisiana’s law specifies that the ombudsman should both review complaints and propose systemic changes. It also requires the ombudsman to report annually to the Legislature on projects, and to release a report every two years on conditions for children in detention facilities.

    Susan East Nelson, executive director of the Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families, said she was impressed the Legislature passed the bill so quickly.

    “It really underscores the fact that the Legislature saw this as a necessity, to put this accountability in place for children in Louisiana,” she said.

    Transparency concerns remain

    It remains to be seen how much of a public accounting the ombudsman will give in cases of children who died in state care. Earlier versions of the bill restricted the ombudsman from sharing records state law already deems confidential — which is the case for nearly all DCFS records.

    It’s common in other states, however, for ombudsmen to release in-depth reports about how children have died in state care, and lapses before their deaths.

    The final version of the bill does not include language about the ombudsman’s ability to obtain and release records. State laws that govern the legislative auditor’s office allow subpoena power. They also say that audit reports are public records, but that the provision does not apply to “documents, data or information furnished the legislative auditor which are deemed confidential by law.”

    DCFS ‘welcomes’ new oversight

    DCFS has also added a new “constituent services liaison” position to help respond to concerns from the public, according to Communications Director Catherine Heitman.

    “DCFS welcomes the creation and implementation of the Ombudsman office and looks forward to what can be learned from a third party who helps to untangle service delivery issues for families working with multiple programs administered by state agencies,” she said in a statement.

    An Office of Juvenile Justice spokesperson did not return a message for this story.

    Lawmakers also passed a handful of other bills related to child welfare and juvenile justice this session.

    They include Ezekiel’s Law, named for 2-year-old Ezekiel Harry, who was found dead in a trash can last summer in Houma. The act creates a “partners in protecting children” subcommittee in the state’s Children’s Cabinet Advisory Board to better coordinate child abuse investigations.

    Legislators also passed a bill to create a statewide public database of people who have been convicted of felony child abuse offenses. The registry will differ from one that DCFS already maintains: The DCFS registry is off-limits to the public and keeps tabs on caretakers the agency has investigated for abuse and neglect.

    Read this article on The Advocate Website.

  • May 25, 2023 4:44 PM | Susan East Nelson (Administrator)


    ALICE IN THE CROSSCURRENTS Shows Louisiana Second Only to Mississippi in the percentage of families living below the ALICE threshold 


    BATON ROUGE (May 25, 2023) —Louisiana Association of United Ways (LAUW) in partnership with United Ways throughout the state, today released a new report demonstrating the financial hardships faced by the more than 900,000 households–51% of all families–can’t afford life’s basic necessities, an increase of 22,980 families. 

    ALICE in the Crosscurrents COVID and Financial Hardship – the first detailed report since the COVID pandemic but the fifth in the series – details how families both above and below the poverty level made difficult choices due to financial headwinds, despite pandemic and disaster benefits.

    The report also shows that one-third (32%) of Louisiana households are ALICE, or Asset Limited,Income Constrained, Employed, a term that describes households earning more than the federally designated poverty level (FPL)l but less than the cost of living in their area.

    “The latest ALICE findings are timely as we begin to look beyond the pandemic and disaster eras that all of us Louisianans endured and work to address the most urgent problems facing our communities,” stated Sarah Berthelot, President/CEO of Louisiana Association of United Ways. “The economic scars of recent years are evident in the increase of Louisiana working families unable to make basic ends meet and save for unexpected events or retirement. Understanding these persistent challenges for ALICE is a crucial component of our process toward recovery.”

    The updated ALICE Household Survival Budget for a working family of four in 2021 was $66,288well above the FPL of $26,500. Even with tax credits, ALICE would need to earn about $33 an hour to keep up with the household’s expenses, yet 75% of the state’s most common jobs earn less than $20 an hour. 

    “The cost of living is changing and unfortunately the pay is not. Even though I have improved in my career goals and have the ability to make a better living for myself, it still presents a challenge in today’s economy,” explained Aneecha Bradley, a public school teacher and mother of two from Baton Rouge who qualifies as ALICE based on income. 

    Every parish was affected by the pandemic and the six federally declared natural disasters since 2020, but competing economic forces, including supply chain disruptions and rising costs, played out differently across demographic groups: Black, young, and singleparent households were more likely to be ALICE or in poverty, while white, workingage and marriedparent households were more likely to be financially stable. 

    “The United Way’s ALICE report has changed how advocates talk about poverty and economic hardship and has played a vital role in showing policymakers how many hard-working families are just one disruption away from disaster,” said Jan Moller, executive director of the Louisiana Budget Project. 

    Findings from the new report show:

    • Food Insufficiency: Even with emergency food measures in place, 26% of households below the ALICE threshold reported that their household “sometimes or often did not have enough to eat” in November 2022, an increase of 8% over two years and well above the state average (15%). At that same time, 30% of households with children below the threshold reported not having enough food, an increase of 13% since prior reporting in August of 2020. Households below the threshold were most likely to be affected if they included someone with a disability (36%). Households headed by someone Black (24%), female (23% and/or LGBT (24%) were also disproportionately affected. 
    • Struggles with Paying Bills: The rate of families in Louisiana that reported difficulty paying for usual items such as food, rent/mortgage, car payments and medical expenses increased from 55% of households in August 2020 to 64% in November of 2022, more than twice the rate of families above the threshold (31% in November 2022). 
    • Urban Vs Rural: ALICE is more common in rural Louisiana; Fifty-nine percent of rural Louisiana households and 49% of urban households live below the ALICE threshold. In Claiborne and East Caroll parishes, 69% of families live below the ALICE threshold, the highest levels in the state.  
    • Families with Children: The typical family of four brought in $17,000 less than the costs of basic expenses, which increased by 11%. Childcare costs for two children rose to $1,421 monthly and are typically the largest expense in a family’s budget. 
    • Lack of Emergency Savings: Even with pandemic and disaster benefits, only 29% of households below the ALICE threshold had emergency savings equal to three months of expenses to cover a job loss, sickness or another emergency, a reduction from the pre-pandemic levels of 37%. Meanwhile, 17% of those households reported having to pay an emergency medical expense out of pocket because it was not covered by insurance.
    • Healthcare disparities: Families below the ALICE threshold were more likely to report that they missed, delayed or skipped a child’s preventative check-up (45% vs. 36%).  Households below the threshold were also twice as likely to report feeling down, depressed or hopeless (18% vs. 9% in 2022). ALICE Households that included a family member with a disability (38%) or who identify as LGBT (47%) were much more likely to report feeling nervous, anxious or on edge, compared to the state average of 19% for all households. 

    ALICE in the Crosscurrents: COVID and Financial Hardship in Louisiana is the fifth of a series of Louisiana-specific research-based reports released by United Ways across Louisiana since 2016, thanks to the generous support of the Entergy Corporation. The project is a collaboration with the United For ALICE, a grassroots movement in 27 states that provides corporations and foundations with consistent methodology and reporting to document financial need. ALICE Reports provide parish-by-parish and town-level data, and analysis of how many households are struggling, including the obstacles ALICE households face on the road to financial independence.

    “Entergy has been proud to partner on the ALICE Report with the Louisiana Association of United Ways since the report’s inception in 2016,” said Patty Riddlebarger, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility, Entergy Corporation. “The report has provided a voice for thousands of struggling households while also serving as an invaluable tool for policymakers and community leaders who are shaping the programs and initiatives that are making a real difference in the lives of ALICE families in our communities. In 2022, the Louisiana Association of United Ways and United Way partners across our state were instrumental in helping Entergy provide more than $4.4 million in utility assistance and VITA support for working families in Louisiana. Entergy is committed to helping ALICE families achieve economic stability. Our support for the ALICE report is an invaluable resource in this work.”

    For more information or to find data about ALICE in local communities, visit May 25, 2023, everyone can view or download a full copy of ALICE in the Crosscurrents: COVID and Financial Hardship at

    About the Louisiana Association of United Ways

    The Louisiana Association of United Ways is an association of eight regional United Ways serving 53 parishes throughout Louisiana. Our mission is to integrate action and resources for the common good. We work across our communities to tackle challenges that affect individuals, families and whole communities — challenges that are ultimately bigger than any of us and impact our entire state. Our association support statewide coordination and development of the Louisiana 211 Statewide Network. We are part of a global network of more than 1,800 United Ways, servicing communities in 41 countries.

    About United For ALICE

    United For ALICE is a driver of innovation, shining a light on the challenges ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) households face and finding collaborative solutions. Through a standardized methodology that assesses the cost of living in every county, this project provides a comprehensive measure of financial hardship across the U.S. Equipped with this data, ALICE partners convene, advocate, and innovate in their local communities to highlight the issues faced by ALICE households and to generate solutions that promote financial stability. The grassroots movement represents United Ways, corporations, nonprofits and foundations in Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Hawai‘i, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin; we are United For ALICE. For more information, visit: 

  • July 05, 2016 12:22 PM | Anonymous

    In a single week in June, caseworkers from the Department of Children and Family Services’ Baton Rouge field office answered a dizzying array of calls.

    Two mothers were killed, leaving uncertain futures for their children. An infant accidentally forgotten in the back seat of a car died from the intense summer heat. Workers placed nine children into foster care, investigated a child trafficking case and started investigations into eight newborns exposed to illegal drugs.

    Six child protection investigators were available to check on those cases. Earlier in the year, the Baton Rouge office had even fewer caseworkers — just two or three — available to handle the incoming reports of abuse or neglect.

    Read the full article by Bryn Stole from The Advocate - click here.

  • June 16, 2016 5:23 AM | Anonymous


    June 16, 2016


    Father's Day is a time to pause and think about the many ways that dads make a difference in their children's lives.  Research shows that father's positive engagement can improve child well-being whether they live full-time with their children or not. Fatherhood is a complex and evolving concept, but there are some things we know for sure about its value for kids:

    Fathers make important contributions to their kids' development---and do so in ways that are different from mother's contributions.

    Fathers are more likely to use advanced language around young kids, which promotes vocabulary development. Fathers also tend to prioritize rough-and-tumble play, letting kids explore, and playing more than caretaking, which establish independence and positive social skills. Positive father engagement has been linked to better outcomes on measures of child well-being, such as cognitive development, educational achievement, self-esteem, and pro-social behavior.

    Fathers today are increasingly involved in their children's lives, especially compared to earlier generations.

    Fatherhood and fathering is central to many men's lives, though these experiences are increasingly diverse. Today's U.S. fathers take care of their children more than most fathers did a generation ago. Father-child interactions range from soothing infants and toddlers to participating in activities that stimulate their children's development, such as reading and telling stories and helping with homework. They also provide emotional support and guidance to their adolescents.


    Most fathers who do not live with children help provide for them financially.

    The popular notion of the "deadbeat dad" suggests that dads who do not live with their children try to avoid paying for them. However, in 2013, 74 percent of eligible mothers received either full or partial child support payments. Fathers often provide this support while navigating various obstacles, such as a lack of stable employment or housing, payments for children in multiple households, or struggles after incarceration.


    This money is a safety net for many families. Children who live with one parent are about twice as likely to live in poverty (28.8 percent) than the general population (14.5 percent). Child support payments lifted approximately one million people out of poverty in 2012. Fathers also provide other types of financial support that benefit child well-being: about half (51 percent) of noncustodial parents (the vast majority of whom are fathers) provide their children's health insurance, and 60 percent of fathers provide some type of non-cash support, such as gifts, clothes, food, medical expenses, or child care.

    Even fathers who don't live with their children can be involved parents.

    Resident fathers are more involved in their children's lives now than ever before, but when fathers don't live with their kids, their level of involvement varies greatly. This is partly because parents' co-parenting relationship---how well they work together to raise their child---often declines when they break up. Cooperation as co-parents is a strong predictor of a father's involvement---as strong as his earlier parenting behaviors. To keep nonresident fathers connected to their children, it's important to foster a cooperative co-parenting relationship with their child's other caregiver, who may limit the father's access to their joint children.

    More programs for parents have begun to recognize fathers' value.

    Although there are many community-based programs that focus on supporting moms, practitioners have realized fathers' needs and their importance. Many programs directly serve fathers themselves and incorporate lessons on parenting, co-parenting, and healthy relationships. Others help with professional skill-building and job searching, and have been shown to improve fathers' employment rates. The federal government recently funded nearly 50 organizations across the United States to provide these types of so-called Responsible Fatherhood activities, emphasizing the importance of improving and supporting fathers' relationships with their children.



    Elizabeth Karberg, Research Scientist; 

    Kimberly Turner, Research Scientist; 

    Shawn Teague, Research Analyst; 

    April Wilson, Research Scientist; and 

    Mindy Scott, Deputy Program Area Director of Reproductive Health and Family Formation

  • February 10, 2016 9:18 AM | Anonymous

    The Governor has issued a Call to Special Session for the Louisiana Legislators. The proclamation can be read here.

  • February 02, 2016 9:49 AM | Anonymous

    February is National Parent Leadership Month!  The FRIENDS Parent Advisory Council (PAC) is excited to offer you resources to recognize and celebrate the parents in your state, community and local programs!  Here are some materials and ideas that will help you reach out and thank the parents who make your CBCAP efforts so successful! Many of these materials are available in both English and Spanish. Consider using them this month and throughout the year. Resources:

    1. National Parent Leadership Month certificate:  A customizable award that you can download and fill in for the parent leaders you are recognizing
    2. A Recipe for Growth:  An example of how to nurture and develop parent leaders
    3. Tips for Practitioners:  Insights and wisdom from the PAC on what has helped them grow in their leadership role as well as suggestions of how parents and practitioners can join together to support parent leadership

    Additional resources including Public Service Announcements, media strategies and talking points are available by clicking the link to the Parents Anonymous NPLM toolkit:  FRIENDS is a service of the Children's Bureau and a member of the T/TA Network.

    Resource Files:

    NPLM Recipe for Growth

    NPLM Recipe for Growth (Spanish)

    NPLM Certificate Recognizing Parent Leadership

    NPLM Certificate Recognizing Parent Leadership (Spanish)

    NPLM Tips for Practitioners

    NPLM Tips for Practitioners (Spanish)

  • January 27, 2016 9:31 AM | Anonymous

    The Baton Rouge Advocate has an article in today’s paper about the ALICE report -

  • January 27, 2016 9:29 AM | Anonymous

    I am providing a link to access the United Way ALICE Report for Louisiana.  Please share as you see an opportunity.

    Thank you!!

    Sarah H. Berthelot  /  President and CEO

    Louisiana Association of United Ways 

    P O Box 3416, Baton Rouge, LA 70821/ p: 225-341-2928 / f: 225.341.2926

  • December 10, 2015 8:31 PM | Anonymous

    FRIENDS National Center is pleased to announce the release of a joint brief, Selecting a Family Support and Strengthening Program Assessment Tool: An Overview for Program Leaders and Funders.  This brief was produced in collaboration with the FRIENDS National Center, The Center for the Study of Social Policy and The National Network of Family Support and Strengthening Networks.  The intent is to inform the work of various community-based programs in selecting an appropriate program assessment tool.  The brief provides an overview of the tools available from each organization and provides insight into various areas such as:

    1)Tool cost

    2)Training available

    3)Time to complete the tool

    4)Technical Assistance available

    5)Data tracking support

    6)Contact information for the tool developers

    In addition to the information provided in the brief, The FRIENDS web site also provides additional, in-depth supporting materials at   Those materials include fact sheets on each tool, a matrix on understanding the approach of each tool, an overview of Why Program Assessment Matters to both community programs and funders as well as scenarios that help organizations make decisions about the best tool for them. 

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