This morning I heard Mr. Jan Moller, Director of the Louisiana Budget Project, make a comment that instantly altered my understanding of Louisiana’s State Budget: “The budget is a moral document.” Wow!

What I take away from that brief statement is this: our state budget reflects the morality and ethical values which inform the decisions made by our legislature.

Louisiana’s budget assigns value to items by the amount of funding allocated to various items. Each act of prioritization makes a clear statement about the moral condition of our state.

How have I missed this perspective that now seems so obvious?

Today, the moral values contained in Louisiana’s current state budget seem especially clear to me because this morning The Annie E. Casey Foundation released the 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book.

Louisiana ranks 48th among the states in child well-being. Once again Louisiana is near the bottom of all the states in how well we care for our children. Now, for 27 years Louisiana has held the average rank of 49th among the states in child well-being.


Decisions which reflect Louisiana’s moral values are being made this week in Baton Rouge as the 2016 Second Extraordinary Legislative Session draws to a close. Our state budget is not yet complete, but there are clearly huge funding shortfalls in children’s services and these – if not corrected – will make clear statements about the morality of Louisiana’s priorities.

Our state budget is a moral document.

At any give time, Louisiana has more than 4,000 foster children and we have only 2,000 foster homes. Louisiana does less to cover the cost of caring for foster children than any other state. In fact, even the maximum amount paid for Therapeutic Foster Care is less than that paid by any other state.

Our state budget is a statement of moral position.

A recent Times-Picayune article reports, “Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration outlined what would be some troubling outcomes if any of these budget cuts came to fruition. For example, Edwards appointees at the Department of Children and Family Services said it would no longer investigate certain types of child welfare concerns — because they would only have enough staff to handle the most threatening cases.”

Our state budget is documentation of our state’s morals.

We are quick to discuss with passion when a life begins and how to protect babies before they are born. Once here among us, though, Louisiana’s babies face a state ranked 48th in infant mortality with 8.4 infant deaths out of 1000 live births.

Our state budget is a report about Louisiana’s ethics regarding children.

For 27 years Louisiana has averaged 49th in the nation for child well-being. I believe one of our legislature’s primary responsibilities is to take care of basic protection for children. Ensuring DCFS is funded sufficiently to investigate child welfare concerns and has the resources available to protect children is one way to be morally responsible.

Our state budget is documentation of our state’s morality.

Eight times this year, a foster child has spent the night in a state office building because Louisiana does not have an adequate child welfare system. This MUST change.

Our budget is a reflection of our state’s morals regarding children.

If DCFS, which exists to protect children, cannot conduct child welfare investigations because of misplaced funding priorities, then Louisiana has truly lost her way.

One last time: our state budget is a moral document.

Our legislature has the power to ensure Louisiana’s children are protected and are cared for well. Protection from abuse and neglect is essential. It is primary.

No, we cannot correct our past. However, the funding decisions being made this week about the future well-being of Louisiana’s children are moral decisions. What our state budget funds for the care of Louisiana’s most desperate children is a statement of our state’s morality.

How have I missed this?

Rick Wheat, President and Chief Executive Officer
Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services

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