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DSS Releases Internal Audit Findings

Agency will update information technology, realign process to better serve public

BATON ROUGE - The Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services (DSS) today released the findings of a 90-day internal audit that recommends the agency realign processes and programs, integrate service delivery and modernize business and information technology.

“This audit has allowed us to assess our programs and strategies as an agency to ensure that we realize our vision that Louisiana families, children and individuals are safe, thriving and self-sufficient,” said DSS Secretary Kristy Nichols. “We have an opportunity and obligation to work with our community and government partners to provide the needed tools such as those supporting education and workforce training to help reduce the number of families in poverty in our state.”

The four key findings of the audit include:
  • Broad programmatic & operational needs are common across service areas including vulnerable children and at-risk families; poverty reduction and workforce development; and education and family supports
  • Improved customer and staff satisfaction with increased productivity is possible by updating business practices and coordinating the customer service delivery system
  • A renewed focus on and investment in programs with evidence-based solutions is needed to ensure the safety of children and reduce poverty by leveraging resources in collaboration with partners
  • Processes and programs can be realigned to better meet the needs of the agency by:
  • Integrate the service delivery system across program offices
  • Redesign the operational structure to mitigate operational risks
  • Maximize integration opportunities with partners to leverage resources
  • Reduce fraud and improve recovery
“The need for modernizing through technology is critical to increase efficiency, track our clients and outcomes, manage programs and ultimately to provide transparency and accountability to the public,” Nichols said.

Strategic Recommendations from the audit center around six goals:
Goal 1: Modernize and realign business operations and program practices
  • Update information technology systems
  • Produce cost savings and improve program performance by better utilizing internal and external resources
  • Streamline administrative and service support operations through centralization and/or outsourcing (community-based organizations, private industry)
  • Collaborate with other state agencies for poverty reduction programs (workforce training and paths to high school graduation)
  • Modernize approach to client care/intervention by matching the type and level of intervention to the service needed
Goal 2: Promote and support safe and thriving children and families
  • Reform the system of residential treatment services for children with licensing standards, clear placement criteria and fee structures
  • Provide Child Protective Services with the tools needed to ensure the quality of care for children
  • Continue to invest in early childhood development through Child Care Quality and other resources
Goal 3: Improve Emergency Preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation capacities
  • Ensure that citizens have confidence that they will be protected from harm, have appropriate shelter and supportive services, and have the opportunity to return home as quickly as possible
  • Redesign the Disaster Food Stamp Program and integrate into emergency preparedness
  • Create a unified long-term plan for fulfilling the ESF-6 mission
Goal 4: Encourage and support individuals moving into self sufficiency
  • Work to reduce poverty by collaborating with partners and focusing on high-impact, evidence-based educational programming and workforce support efforts
Goal 5: Improve customer service
  • Remove barriers to access services and resources
  • Develop a DSS Customer Service Center that serves as a single point of contact for clients and providers to ensure a seamless entry into the DSS system
  • Expand feedback from staff, clients and providers
  • Integrate service delivery
Goal 6: Reduce fraud and abuse
  • Reduce the incidence and impact of fraud and abuse by ensuring continuous improvement processes align with business needs and priorities
Upon her appointment as Interim Secretary in September 2008, Nichols called for an internal audit to assess the Department’s current programmatic strategies and operating structures, as well as develop strategic recommendations to improve the cost, efficiency and effectiveness of services provided by the State.  She called for an official report of the audit findings to be issued by mid-December.

The internal audit was led by the executive management team and included an in-depth evaluation of program office functions, staff interviews, stakeholder meetings and a review of collateral information provided by the Legislative Auditor.

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