Foster Care Friday: Low-Income Families

This Foster Care Awareness Month, we are reflecting on the thousands of young people and families affected by Nebraska’s child welfare system, especially those vulnerable to unnecessary system involvement.

This week’s focus is Low-Income Families

85% of families involved in Nebraska’s child welfare system are there due to “physical neglect,” or lack of consistent necessities like food, shelter, or clothing. Meaning, 85% of families are in Nebraska’s system due to being in poverty, rather than intentional acts of harm against children, and are in need of supports rather than familial separation.

Yet once in care, these families are very infrequently given the tools needed to grow out of poverty. Only about 1% of child welfare funds are used to support the direct, material needs of families with the majority of funds going towards family separation. Further, families are often in worse economic condition after leaving care, exacerbating cycles of poverty.

A few sources of this unnecessary involvement are (1) our broad definitions of child neglect that include poverty, (2) our broad mandatory reporting laws requiring service providers (like of housing assistance, food support, and domestic violence shelters) to report families in need of such support, and (3) classism and bias by child welfare reporters and decision makers judging lower-income living circumstances to be unsafe. 

Families deserve to thrive together, without fear of unnecessary child welfare involvement.

These families don’t need system involvement, surveillance, and separation. They need community supports helping to uplift them, and the ability to safely access them, without fear of being reported. 

Continue following our social media this Foster Care Awareness Month for more reflections. In the meantime, here are resources you can explore to learn more:

Read | Browse: If I Wasn’t Poor, I Wouldn’t Be Unfit (Human Rights Watch, 2022).

Watch | Listen: Poverty In the US: Main Reason for the Removal of Children From Parents (Human Rights Watch, 2022)

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