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In the last few weeks we have had a new thing happen in Admissions. We have received Judicial Commitments.
Louisiana’s Children’s Code, the law that covers all things related to the care of children in our state, provides judges with the authority to place children into the care of an agency. This admission method bypasses the Coordinated System of Care, Magellan and all state agencies. This law exists to ensure that when a child needs care, the court does not have to wait on “the system” to decide how to care for the child. This law is a good thing.
Until a few weeks ago, we had never received a Judicial Commitment. In fact, the first one came out of the blue. It was such a new thing, several of us had to do our research to determine exactly what our responsibilities are related to our relationship to the court, custody matters, and how the other parts of Louisiana’s Coordinated System of Care operate when a Judicial Commitment occurs.
Generally, I believe these Judicial Commitments will be a good thing for children. Here’s why: A child in out-of-home care can have no more powerful advocate than a judge to ensure her or his unique needs are met appropriately. What a judge requires to make good decisions is solid information. We have a long history of evaluating the needs of children and providing good, solid treatment information.
My first experience with judges and their commitment to making decisions in the best interest of a child and his or her family occurred in the early 1990’s. Judge Robbie James held juvenile court in Ruston. I worked then as Director of the Reception Center and Admissions. Several others and I had the privilege of sharing information with Judge James about our children prior to their court sessions. I looked forward to those meetings. They were held before court because Judge James wanted the latest, most complete information available to help him make the best decision for each child.
I learned then that judges have absolute freedom to focus clearly on what a child or family really needs without being swayed by such things as utilization review or continued care criteria. I also learned that judges can make things happen for children when no other person or agency can. Judges have no financial incentive influencing their decisions about a child’s care. Judges are in the unique position of being able to consider a child’s needs cleanly without worrying about the system’s rules.
Because we have received three Judicial Commitments in the last few weeks, we expect more in the future. We will soon send helpful information to Louisiana’s juvenile judges and district attorneys.
In a nutshell, we will welcome them to our treatment teams and let them know that when they need to make Judicial Commitments we will partner with them and their courts as if they are a child’s care manager. We will keep judges informed of what their children’s needs are. We will also ask the courts to assist us in ensuring each child’s identified needs are met – even when the system isn’t working for the child.
Now, regarding our first Judicial Commitment – a child from Baton Rouge – the court reports hearing from third parties the child loves being in our care. That’s excellent and positive feedback about her experience in treatment at Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home.