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September/October 2011Vol. 12, No. 7Site Visit: Louisiana Kinship Integrated Service System

In the fall of 2005, when the Greater New Orleans region was beginning its recovery from Hurricane Katrina, the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) realized it needed to improve services to kinship families involved with the child welfare system. After the hurricane, DCFS found disruption of kinship placements was higher in New Orleans than the rest of the State, and coordination between Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and child welfare services for kinship families was ineffective at coordinating services that would meet the varied needs of caregivers who are taking care of relative children.

To address these problems, DCFS applied for and was awarded a competitively competed discretionary grant from the Children's Bureau to develop the Louisiana Kinship Integrated Service System (LA KISS). LA KISS is a multilevel partnership between the State's child welfare and economic stability programs to improve outcomes for kinship families in New Orleans. DCFS recognized the need to reorganize how these two programs interact to better serve residents returning to the region following the hurricane's destruction.

To achieve its goal, LA KISS funded the cross-training of two child welfare and two economic support care managers providing direct services to kinship families; the training equipped them with strategies to improve families' access to and understanding of both systems. In addition, the project has focused heavily on establishing an integrated system of care across New Orleans DCFS offices, with the hope of replicating the system statewide when the project ends. Collaborative partners have been engaged throughout this system-building effort, including community-based organizations, private service providers, The Council on Aging, and other TANF and child welfare stakeholders.

Staff members have identified the following successful LA KISS strategies:

  • Using a client-focused perspective that identifies and responds to families' needs
  • Emphasizing relationship-building between care managers and families to engage them in services and help them view DCFS in a more positive light
  • Sharing a new case management system and calendar for care managers to input data and monitor case progress
  • Partnering with community-based organizations to establish accessible family service centers

To strengthen evidence of the project's effectiveness, DCFS randomly assigns families to receive services as part of the LA KISS project. The Louisiana State University School of Social Work Office of Social Service Research & Development is performing process and outcome evaluations of the project. Although the results are preliminary, surveys of care managers, kinship caregivers, and other stakeholders so far indicate the following:

  • Services are more family-focused.
  • Policies and procedures are explained more clearly.
  • Community resource referrals are provided more frequently.
  • Caregivers feel they are respected and their input is being received.

To ensure continuity of services when funding for the project ends, DCFS is helping community-based organizations establish ongoing services and supports for kinship families. The State also is planning a regionwide training titled "LA KISS and Beyond" to teach kinship caregivers how to access services from community providers or State agencies when LA KISS care managers are no longer available.

For more information on LA KISS, contact Shewayn Watson, Program Manager: Shewayn.Watson@LA.GOV

LA KISS is funded by the Children's Bureau, CFDA #93.556. This article is part of a series highlighting successful Children's Bureau grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from Children's Bureau site visits.

The full site visit report will be posted on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website: