On January 21, the Health and Human Services Committee of the Nebraska Legislature held a hearing on LB 746, the Nebraska Strengthening Families Act (NSFA), a bill that allows “kids to be kids” by removing unnecessary barriers that prevent children in foster care from participating in developmentally appropriate activities like sports, sleepovers, and extracurricular activities.
All testifiers were in support of LB 746 which implements best practices in the new federal law, the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act. The bill also brings Nebraska statute into compliance and reflects the recommendations of over 200 stakeholders to improve “normalcy” for children and youth in foster care.
LB 746 was introduced by State Senator Kathy Campbell, who has been a champion for children including introducing several bills over the years to implement best practices in the federal Fostering Connections Act, the precursor to the SFA.
Key pieces of LB 746 include:
- The Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standard to allow foster parents to make day-to-day decisions regarding what age and developmentally appropriate activities youth can participate.
- The notification and explanation of rights for youth involved in the foster care system.
- Empowering youth to be more involved in the development of their case plans.
- Providing older youth with important documents, like their birth certificate and medical records, before they age out of the system.
- Limiting the use of Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (or independent living) to youth over age 16.
Raevin, a member of Project Everlast, shared the barriers she faced to normalcy activities and how LB 746 would have made all the difference for her by being provided guidance in understanding the system and access to important experiences to help her in the transition to adulthood.
“When you spend time in foster care, you’re reminded plenty of times that your life is different than other kids. Even if your foster parents do everything they can to make sure you are healthy, safe, happy, and loved, there are some things the foster care system just doesn’t let foster kids do easily. I experienced this firsthand during my seven years in foster care.”
Keri, a foster parent in Nebraska, also spoke about the challenges she experienced when trying to provide children in her care with access to important growing-up activities such as cheerleading, obtaining a food handler’s permit, and travel for family vacations. She asked the the Health and Human Services Committee to vote to advance LB 746 to “make kids safe, enrich and empower children and youth to lead productive, capable and meaningful lives, while strengthening families in the process.”
Appleseed Child Welfare Director Sarah Helvey also testified in support of LB 746 and explained which provisions of LB 746 were part of the federal law and which provisions were recommended by stakeholders.
Several other key stakeholders also testified in support of the bill, including, Mandi (a parent with involvement in the system), the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, the Foster Care Review Office, Voices for Children in Nebraska, the Nebraska Juvenile Justice Association, and the Court Improvement Project.
Stay connected with Appleseed for updates on the NSFA and contact your State Senator to urge them to support LB 746 so every young Nebraskan in foster care can have the same experiences and opportunities as other Nebraska kids!