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DCFS, the Pelican Center and Public Universities Announce New Child Welfare Training Academy

Dr. Rhenda Hodnett appointed to lead new Academy

BATON ROUGE - The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), in collaboration with the Pelican Center and public university schools of social work, today announced that DCFS Child Welfare Director, Dr. Rhenda Hodnett, will lead the newly created Child Welfare Training Academy.

The Academy, which will be housed at Southeastern State University, will ensure that child welfare staff and stakeholders will have a fundamental and common base of knowledge and skills necessary to effectively intervene within the child welfare system.

Dr. Hodnett will serve as the Academy's coordinator and facilitator to lead project research, as well as design and implement development of the trainings. Dr. Hodnett has been a member of the DCFS team for 25 years and has served as the Child Welfare Director since January 2012. In April, she was awarded the prestigious U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Children, Youth and Families 2014 Commissioner's Award. The award honors one recipient from each state for making an exceptional contribution to the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect in his or her state.

"Rhenda has always been a tremendous asset to the DCFS team and we could not think of anyone better suited to lead and mold the Child Welfare Training Academy and the current and future generations of child welfare staff," said DCFS Secretary Suzy Sonnier. "Pooling our resources with the Pelican Center and public universities will help us ensure a comprehensive training system that will serve staff and all partners in the child welfare system more effectively and efficiently."

"The creation of the Academy offers an opportunity for comprehensive training and education of child welfare practitioners across systems - child welfare, legal and community; it is a unique and a tremendous asset for the State of Louisiana," said Pelican Center for Children and Families Executive Director Mark Harris. "I am very excited to be part of this new enterprise as this partnership brings child welfare practitioners information that is consistent and accessible through a variety of learning modalities."

DCFS and its partners will merge training efforts for new child welfare workers, enhance on-going and specialized child welfare worker training, and improve child welfare supervisory academy and certification, as well as provide foster, adoptive and relative caregiver training, and child welfare system leadership development.

The Child Welfare Training Academy will strive to develop through training, coaching, and mentoring a community of professionals, para-professionals and caregivers with relevant knowledge, skills and expertise to effectively intervene with vulnerable children and families involved in Louisiana's child welfare system to achieve the best possible outcomes.

The Pelican Center is a Louisiana not-for-profit corporation that is a formalized collaborative of key child-serving organizations in Louisiana with the goal of improving global outcomes for children.

For more information about DCFS' Child Welfare programs visit

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