Livingston Parish number one on the list for children placed in foster care
LIVINGSTON PARISH - Alarm bells began sounding at state and federal levels last week about a problem in Livingston Parish that is only getting worse.
According to data collected by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) last year, more children were removed from their parents' households in Livingston Parish than any other parish in the state.
The numbers showed 328 children were placed in foster care last year. In comparison, Orleans Parish, which has more than 225,000 more people living there, had less than 100 children placed in foster care last year.
"It really was startling and frightening to us," DCFS Secretary Marketa Walters said. "We knew there had to be something behind the numbers. As we drilled down what we found is drug use."
Some judges in the parish said the problem is so bad they are running out of foster homes.
"We are in a desperate situation to do something with these kids right now," Judge Jerry Denton said. "It breaks my heart. It's the toughest day for court for me. It's the toughest part of my job that I have to do."
Just this week, Denton said a mother called the state and said she could no longer care for her kids. She packed their suitcases up and handed them over.
"Said, 'Come get my kids, I can't deal with it,'" Denton said. "She has a meth problem, alcohol problem and find out the father's incarcerated so he can't take the children either."
That's not the only sad story.
"I had to take a two-week-old from a mother who was breastfeeding and hot loading heroin at the same time," Denton said. "So, the baby had to go to neonatal ICU. It was seizuring [sic] immediately. It was basically getting heroin mainlined into the mother's breast milk."
As the shortage of foster homes is a problem in Livingston, finding the root cause of what's causing these issues is a priority. Educating the community about this drug problem and finding resources to fight it is also a priority, according to Walters.
"We do have this alarming number of children coming into care," Walters said. "They are coming because of substance abuse. There is not enough treatment of substance abuse in the parish, and we've got to find solutions that target the root cause."
Those dealing with it daily say it takes an emotional toll.
"I go home sort of numb at the end of the day," Denton said. "Every time I'm finished with court that day, I feel like I should send my parents a thank-you card. I was so blessed to have good parents."
Statewide, the number of children entering foster care in Livingston Parish is double the median according to statistics the state compiled. Approximately 50 newborns exposed to drugs and alcohol were among those entering foster care in Livingston Parish last year.