***For Immediate Release***
January 21, 2016
Contact, Jeff Sheldon
Communications Director, Nebraska Appleseed
Office: (402) 438-8853
Mobile: (402) 840-7289
Nebraska Strengthening Families Act, LB 746, set for Thursday hearing
Bill will better allow “kids to be kids” by removing barriers to important developmental activities
LINCOLN — Child welfare advocates, young people with experience in foster care and Nebraska families caring for foster youth voiced support for LB 746, the Nebraska Strengthening Families Act, ahead of the bill’s hearing Thursday before the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee.
LB 746, introduced by State Sen. Kathy Campbell (LD-25, Lincoln), would implement the federal Strengthening Families Act in Nebraska so children and youth in foster care can have access to the same developmental experiences and opportunities as other Nebraska kids.
“This bill is a much-needed step forward for children and youth in foster care and addresses concerns we have heard from young people for years,” Nebraska Appleseed Child Welfare Director Sarah Helvey said. “LB 746 will allow kids in foster care to be kids and removes barriers to extracurricular, enrichment, cultural and social activities that research shows are important to a healthy social development.”
A primary goal of LB 746 and the federal Strengthening Families Act is to allow youth in foster care to access the same age and developmentally appropriate activities that all kids should be able to have, referred to as “normalcy.” Research has shown many of the normal, everyday experiences that kids have growing up, like getting a driver’s license, sleeping over at a friend’s house, or having a part-time job, are actually very important to their social development.
But for years, many kids in foster care have faced bureaucratic barriers to these growing-up experiences. Even if their foster parents wanted them to, they face a lot of red tape just to do things like go on a class field trip or go to prom.
“When you spend time in foster care, you’re reminded plenty of times that your life is different than other kids,” said Raevin Bigelow who spent time in Nebraska’s foster system. “The Nebraska Strengthening Families Act will make it easier for us to have these normal parts of growing up. We can learn what it means to work hard, be there for our friends, spend time with our classmates, and do things every kid should be able to do.”
The bill also provides foster parents the ability to make day-to-day decisions for the children in their care with consideration of each individual child and young person’s needs and preferences.
Keri Rockwell, who has served as a foster parent in Nebraska, said LB 746 will allow bonds of trust to be built between youth in foster care and foster parents, while allowing the youth to have experiences that are essential to growing up to a healthy adulthood.
“Sleepovers, family vacations, team sports, learning to drive, getting a job – these are all part of a young person’s human experience, regardless of their circumstances,” Rockwell said. “I’d like to do for the kids in my care the same for my other children and grandchildren, no different. LB 746 would make kids safe, and enrich and empower youth to lead productive, meaningful lives while strengthening families in the process.”
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