Foster Care Reform Update – August 2015

NE_Appleseed_Icons_SystemicReform-128In This Issue

  • Policy Spotlight: Implementing the Strengthening Families Act in Nebraska
  • Court Opinions: No cases this issue
  • Legislative Actions: 2015 Child Welfare Interim Studies
  • Announcements: Good Apple Awards, Appleseed Blog

Policy Spotlight

Implementing the Strengthening Families Act in Nebraska

This month, a group of Nebraska stakeholders including youth, foster parents, and other advocates convened to develop recommendations regarding Nebraska’s implementation of the federal Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families (“Strengthening Families Act” or “SFA”).  The SFA was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in September 2014 and is designed to promote safety, permanency, well-being and normalcy for youth in foster care. Many provisions of the SFA will go into effect on September 29, 2015.

The SFA includes provisions that protect children and youth at risk of becoming sex trafficking victims, including requiring state child welfare agencies to screen, document, and assist children who are at-risk for being trafficked or are survivors of sex trafficking. The SFA also contains other important provisions, including the reauthorization of adoption incentives with improvements to promote guardianships and the extension of funding for Family Connection Grants.

But the focus of the stakeholder group is on the SFA provisions that promote normalcy or, “age-and developmentally-appropriate activities and experiences.” Through the requirement of the “reasonable prudent parent standard” (RPPS), foster parents will be able to use their best judgement in deciding what activities youth can participate in to remove the unneeded barriers that youth in foster care often face. This will apply to foster family homes as well as child care institutions, such as group homes. The Act also requires states to implement policies to provide caregivers appropriate liability protection when exercising the RPPS and to provide training.

Also to promote permanency and well-being, the SFA requires states to eliminate the use of the another planned permanent living arrangement (“APPLA” or independent living in Nebraska) for youth under age 16. There are specific requirements and protections for youth 16 and older who do have a plan of APPLA. The SFA also empowers youth, age 14 and older, by requiring they be involved in the development of their case plans. By consulting with youth, allowing them to select two individuals to be a part of their case planning team, and including the detailed services needed for the youth to transition to “a successful adulthood,” the SFA will create a stronger youth-led case planning process.

Lastly, the SFA requires that youth in foster care be provided with a list of their rights, with respect to education, health, visitation, court participation, access to important documents such as birth certificate and social security card, as well as their right to stay safe and avoid exploitation.

While Nebraska has taken steps to improve normalcy for youth in foster care and prepare them for a successful transition to adulthood, there is still work to be done.  Over the next couple of months, we will be seeking additional stakeholder input and finalizing recommendations which will be released in October in conjunction with the public hearing on Legislative Resolution 248.  If you have any questions or would be interested in providing input as a practicing attorney on this process, please contact Sarah Helvey or Robbie McEwen.

Legislative Actions

LR 52 (Sen. Campbell) Interim study to examine the Child and Maternal Death Review Act

  • Last Action – Referred to Health and Human Services Committee on May 21, 2015

 

LR 186 (Sen. Morfeld)  Interim study to examine state services available to victims of human trafficking in Nebraska

  • Last Action – Referred to Judiciary Committee on May 21, 2015

 

LR 222 (Sen. Crawford)  Interim study to examine issues relating to family and medical leave

  • Last Action – Referred to Business and Labor Committee on May 21, 2015

 

LR 227 (Sen. Harr)  Interim study to examine opportunities to train Nebraska’s youth for the workforce while addressing both educational and workforce needs

  • Last Action – Referred to Business and Labor Committee on May 21, 2015

 

LR 242 (Sen. Coash) Interim study to examine the interplay between developmental disability and child welfare services to ensure proper treatment and protection of the rights of state wards

  • Last Action – Referred to Health and Human Services Committee on May 21, 2015

 

LR 248 (Sen. Campbell) Interim study to examine the federal Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act and its implementation in Nebraska

  • Last Action – Referred to Health and Human Services Committee on May 21, 2015

 

LR 249 (Sen. Coash) Interim study to examine the use of seclusion in public and private schools for children with behavioral issues or special needs

  • Last Action – Referred to Education Committee on May 21, 2015

 

LR 275 (Sen. Mello) Interim study to examine issues surrounding the affordability, delivery, and taxation of child care in Nebraska

  • Last Action – Referred to Health and Human Services Committee on May 21, 2015

 

LR 276 (Sen. Pansing Brooks) Interim study to examine bullying by and against students and youth

  • Last Action – Referred to Judiciary Committee on May 21, 2015

 

LR 282 (Sen. Mello) Interim study to examine the reasons for the higher cost of juvenile services under the Office of Probation Administration

  • Last Action – Referred to Appropriations Committee on May 21,2015

 

LR 292 (Sen. Campbell) Interim study to examine issues relating to public assistance programs for relative or kinship caregivers

  • Last Action – Referred to Health and Human Services Committee on May 21, 2015

 

LR 295 (Sen. Bolz)  Interim study to examine how to improve behavioral health and mental health services in Nebraska in order to prevent crime and reduce costs associated with the incarceration of people who have heightened behavioral and mental health needs

  • Last Action – Notice of hearing for October 9, 2015

 

LR 296 (Sen. Bolz) Interim study to examine the financing of Nebraska’s child welfare system

  • Last Action – Referred to Appropriations Committee on May 21, 2015

 

LR 300 (Sen. Campbell) Interim study to examine the out-of-state placements of Nebraska children

  • Last Action – Referred to Health and Human Services Committee on May 21, 2015

 

LR 304 (Sen. Campbell) Interim study to examine and assess the behavioral health needs of children and youth in Nebraska and the resources available to meet those needs

  • Last Action – Referred to Health and Human Services Committee on May 21, 2015

 

LR 312 (Sen. Harr) Interim study to examine ways to improve and fund child behavioral health programming in Nebraska

  • Last Action – Referred to Health and Human Services Committee on May 21, 2015

 

LR 334 (Sen. Morfeld) Interim study to examine the integral link between achievement and risky health behaviors

  • Last Action – Notice of hearing for September 10, 2015

 

Announcements

Good Apple Awards

Save the date for an evening of live music, cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and a community awards ceremony honoring people who stand up for justice and opportunity for all Nebraskans. The Good Apple Awards will be held on Thursday, October 22 with a social hour at 6pm and the program beginning at 7pm at the Livestock Exchange Building Ballroom (4920 South 30th Street, Omaha, NE). This year’s honorees include Frank LaMere, Senator Sara Howard, and Unity in Action. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.

Appleseed Blog

Appleseed maintains a blog (on our recently updated website!) where you can read daily updates about our work to positively impact low-income families, immigrants, children in foster care, and access to health care.  Stop by and check it out!  Read, comment, and share your own stories with us at: http://www.neappleseed.org/blog

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