A spike in child deaths

A spike in child deaths

Louisiana’s child welfare agency has investigated 13% more cases of child fatalities compared to the same time last year. But years of budget cuts and low pay, combined with already high caseloads, have made it difficult for the Department of Children and Family Services to retain the caseworkers needed to respond. The Advocate’s Andrea Gallo reports on the department’s limited ability to respond to the increased reports of neglect, abuse and death among the children under its supervision. 

The agency’s Baton Rouge office has nine permanent child protector investigators on staff; it received 259 new cases for investigation last month. Even if each worker covered a full case load, which is 10 cases per month under DCFS’ recommendation, the region still would have had more than 150 cases left uncovered. DCFS caseloads are soaring: The agency investigated 32% more cases over the last six months in Baton Rouge than in the same time period last year, and the number of children entering foster care in Baton Rouge is 66% higher than 2020.

Criminal justice reforms show bipartisanship success is possible
Facing a political backlash as some types of violent crime are on the rise, Gov. John Bel Edwards is in the midst of a statewide tour to tout the criminal justice reforms he signed into law in 2017. The Advocate editorial staff praises the bipartisan effort by lawmakers that allowed Louisiana to shed the dubious title of the incarceration capital of the world by reducing the number of non-violent offenders in its jails. 

What we can see, if we work at it as Louisiana has, is a system where punishment fits the crime. Taxpayer money can then go to programs that don’t imprison — at vast expense — those with drug offenses or other nonviolent convictions but instead provide alternatives to three squares a day behind bars. That has its place, and where prison populations have increased during the years since the reforms passed, that has been because of violent offenders being taken off the streets. Nevertheless, Pew calculated that the state’s prison population has dropped 24% from 2016 levels.

The rise of mixed-race neighborhoods
The majority of white Americans live in mixed-race neighborhoods for the first time in modern history, according to data from the 2020 Census. In 1990, 4 out of every 5 white people lived in predominantly white neighborhoods, but in 2020 that number fell to below half. In Louisiana, there was a 22 percentage point increase in the number of white residents that lived in mixed-race neighborhoods, from 44% in 1990 to 66% in 2020. The Washington Post’s Ted Mellnik and Andrew Van Dam break down the numbers, their significance and what’s driving the shift.  

This demographic shift has scrambled the nation’s politics, introducing new groups of often left-leaning voters into typically conservative White-dominated enclaves, according to Chris Maggio, a sociologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Department of Criminology, Law and Justice. … William H. Frey, a Brookings Institution senior fellow and author of the book “Diversity Explosion,” traces the trend to sharply increased immigration from Latin America and Asia during the 1990s, as more Latinos and Asian Americans began to disperse to the suburbs and elsewhere.

States prepare for EV boom
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act included a myriad of incentives for businesses and individuals to promote the transition to renewable energy sources. Included in the legislation was $5 billion to help build a network of electric vehicle charging stations along the nation’s major highways. But the federal government left it to individual states to create their own charging stations along state roads. Robert Zullo of States’ Newsroom reports on how states are positioning themselves to set up this crucial infrastructure. 

The bipartisan infrastructure law passed by Congress last year included $7.5 billion to build out a nationwide network of more than half a million vehicle charging stations. About $5 billion of that is dedicated to the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure formula program, which will provide each state a share of funding that mirrors its share of federal highway aid. The other $2.5 billion is for discretionary grants for charging and fueling infrastructure aimed at increasing charging access in “rural, underserved and overburdened communities.” … The NEVI program for Louisiana will provide $10.8 million this year and an estimated $15.6 million next year. EV infrastructure projects in the works would cover 1,124 miles of highway

Last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that Louisiana will receive $73,367,735 to install 394 charging stations throughout the state. 

It’s Election Day
Before you head to the polls, check out LBP’s guide to the proposed constitutional amendments that will appear on ballots. We’ve assembled this guide to help voters understand what they will be voting on and the potential impacts of the amendments.

You can also hear LBP executive director Jan Moller and policy analyst Jackson Voss explain the eight proposed constitutional amendments in the latest episode of the Didja Know? podcast. Click here to listen

Number of the Day
22% – Percentage point increase of white Louisianans that live in mixed-race neighborhoods over the last 30 years. In 1990, 44% of white Louisianans lived in mix-race neighborhoods, compared to 66% in 2020. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau via The Washington Post