Foster Care Friday: Moving Forward

This Foster Care Awareness Month, we’ve reflected on the thousands of young people and families affected by Nebraska’s child welfare system. 

We shared that low-income families, families of color, and LGBTQ+ identifying young people are especially vulnerable to child welfare system involvement – and often unnecessarily.

We shared that Nebraska’s data is particularly egregious, especially for low income, Black, and Native families. 

We shared that as a result, the harm Nebraska’s child welfare system can inflict disproportionately and unjustifiably falls on these communities, families, and young people, continuing cycles of trauma, poverty, and system involvement that are nearly impossible to escape. 

There is no doubt that Nebraska can do better. Families deserve to be supported, strengthened, and to thrive safely, without unnecessary system involvement.

Here are just a few things Nebraska Appleseed believes can help achieve this vision:

1. More direct supports to families to prevent child welfare system involvement altogether.

These supports should be culturally competent, provided within their communities, safely accessible to families without risk of being reported for needing them, and without unnecessary and unrealistic eligibility requirements.

These supports can include:

  • Direct cash assistance – Universal Basic Income, Increased Child Tax Credits, and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (“TANF”)), all of which have been demonstrated to reduce child welfare cases significantly for low-income families. 
  • Increased medical care coverage and access – Especially including for children’s behavioral and mental health needs, affirming care for trans and other LGBTQ+ young people, substance use care, and support to pregnant and birthing people, across the state.
  • Increased access to safe and affordable housing.

2. A narrower “front door” into the child welfare system.

The front door to the system decides which families get filtered into it and which don’t, including through child abuse and neglect reports, assessment and investigation of such reports, and the ultimate decision to open a child welfare case or not. Nebraska’s data demonstrates our front door is far too broad. Thoughtfully narrowing it can ensure families are only coming into the system when absolutely necessary, and can decrease opportunities for bias.

This can include: 

  • Narrowing our definition of child “neglect” such that families in poverty are not unnecessarily punished with child welfare cases. 

  • Narrowing our mandatory reporting requirements such that all persons, whether professionally trained or not, are not legally obligated to report every suspicion they have that a child may be unsafe.

3. Race & Equity considerations throughout a child welfare case.

This can include:

  • Mandatory training of all professionals involved in a child welfare case on racial, ethnic, cultural, LGBTQ+, and other equity related biases.

  • Consideration of a child and their family’s race, ethnicity, culture, and other identities at intake and throughout the case to check potential biases being used against them and/or to ensure a connection to such identities continues when removed from their home. 

  • Ensuring all placements as safe, affirming, and accommodating for all identities young people may hold, especially for LGBTQ+ and non-English speaking young people.

And so much more. 

Moving forward, there are so many brilliant and inspiring young people, parents, families, and advocates with lived child welfare system experience leading the charge to a better system for all. Nebraska Appleseed is committed to following their lead and working to achieve the future they envision, including in advocating for the above ideas. We are committed to this advocacy this Foster Care Awareness Month, and every month after that. 

Continue following our social media to learn about and support this work. In the meantime, reach out to share your experiences, story, or perspective. We’d love to hear from you!

    Leave a Comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Scroll to Top