Changes may be coming for a state program aimed at keeping kids at risk of delinquency out of the corrections system. Governor Bobby Jindal proposed tighter more “common sense” regulations for the Families in Need of Service Program, or FINS, at a press conference Friday morning.
The governor built off of a legislative commission’s study of FINS that found children were being moved through the system without enough attention.
Children are referred to FINS for being ungovernable, for bullying or substance use, among other reasons. There’s worry that kids referred to FINS for non-criminal offenses are propelled into the delinquent system, and then more likely to enter the state’s prisons – the opposite of the program’s goal.
The governor is pushing legislation that would prevent children that don’t belong in juvenile detention from ending up there. And that, Jindal said, can reduce state costs down the line.
"Two years in a secure-care facility we spend more than what we would otherwise spend educating a child over twelve years," Jindal said, "but there are also long-term savings associated with these reforms, including reduction in adult prison expenses, less reliance on social services such as welfare and medical expenses which are costly to the state.”
But Dr. Judith Rhodes says the new regulations alone aren’t enough. FINS needs adequate funding. She says FINS needs more counselors, more mental health professionals, and more community intervention. It also needs more accountability.
Dr. Rhodes worked with the Truancy Assessment and Services Center, or TASC – a program linked to FINS that identified children with truancy issues between elementary school and fifth grade. Her branch of the program, which assessed the effectiveness of the program, was cut in December.
Jindal said funding for FINS will be increased. We'll know by how much on the 22nd, when the governor’s budget is presented to a legislative committee.