Louisiana Legislature Passes Two Positive Reform Measures
Families in Need of Services or FINS is the approach designed to bring together various resources for the purpose of helping families (troubled youth and their parents) to remedy self-destructive behaviors by juveniles and/or other family members.
FINS goals are to reduce formal juvenile court involvement while generating appropriate community services to benefit the child and improve family relations. The FINS program provides these youth and their families access to services that are targeted to properly address the underlying causes of pre-delinquent behavior.
FINS referrals are for status offending behavior such as truancy, running away from home and ungovernable behavior.
- Informal FINS is in essence a pre-trial diversion program designed to address self-destructive behaviors in an attempt to prevent youth from going into the formal juvenile justice system.
- Formal FINS is initiated by the filing of a petition by the district attorney or any other attorney authorized by the court. In formal FINS, the youth enters a judicial proceeding under the Children’s Code, which contrary to the informal FINS process, is not voluntary and the youth and his caretaker are both subject to the courts orders which could include the youth and caretaker being subject to orders which the court deems to be in the best interest of the youth and caretaker or family.
The Louisiana Legislature in the 2011 Regular Legislative Session passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 44 requesting the chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court create a Families in Need of Services Commission to study and issue recommendations regarding the governance, structure, target population and necessary legislation for improving the current FINS system through the submission of a report of its findings and recommendations to the Louisiana Legislature. The FINS Commission submitted its report of findings and recommendations in January of 2012.
From those recommendations, two pieces of legislation were developed for the 2012 Louisiana Regular Legislative Session. Both legislative measures were in alignment with best practice models as indicated by the MacArthur Foundation’s Louisiana Models for Change initiative and La. MfC stakeholders were routinely consulted by lawmakers and other juvenile justice reform stakeholders throughout the state during the legislative session for comment and testimony regarding those best practices and recommended reform efforts.
The first measure, Senate Bill 467 by Sen. Sharon Weston Broome, provided for the adoption of due diligence and documentation requirements in order to allow the informal FINS system to better fulfill its mission of providing the needed services to youth and families by having a clear documentation of case history. SB 467 was passed unanimously out of both House and Senate chambers, enrolled and awaits the governor’s signature.
The second piece of legislation, House Concurrent Resolution 129 by Rep. Walt Leger, simply restates the FINS Commission recommendations and requests that the state’s child-serving agencies (Louisiana Supreme Court, the Department of Children and Family Services, the Department of Health and Hospitals, the Department of Education, the Children’s Cabinet and the Office of Juvenile Justice) submit a report to the legislature and the Juvenile Justice Reform Implementation Commission on the accomplishments and status of implementation of the recommendations as applicable to each agency as tasked in the FINS Commission report no later than March 1, 2013. In other words, the legislation ensures the commission’s recommendations are not overlooked and are implemented. HCR 129 was also passed unanimously out of both House and Senate chambers and will become law, as concurrent resolutions do not require a signature of the governor.