Nebraska Legislature considers child welfare reforms

Last week was a busy week!

The Affordable Care Act was maintained by Congress, thanks to the advocacy of people all over the country. Debates also continued in the Nebraska Legislature on voting rights, mandatory minimums, human trafficking and much more. Something we don’t want you to miss, however, was the advancement of a number of important child welfare legislative bills.

LB 225, was introduced by Senator Sue Crawford (LD 45-Bellevue), and was unanimously advanced by the Legislature on General File, with an amendment including several other child welfare bills. It is scheduled for Select File debate on April 3.

LB 225, the underlying bill, ensures that the Alternative Response pilot project, under Nebraska’s federal Title IV-E waiver, continues with oversight to meet the needs of families involved with the child welfare system.

Alternative Response (AR) is a type of non-court involved case in which the Department of Health and Human Services tries to take a more collaborative and family-focused approach to make sure a family can get the resources they need to avoid entering into a court-involved child welfare case. LB 225 recognizes that AR is a new program that still requires data collection and oversight to measure its effectiveness in protecting children and families.

Three additional bills were amended into LB 225, including:

  • LB 298, originally introduced by Senator Roy Baker (LD 30-Lincoln), which includes recommendations from the Normalcy Task Force for group care facilities to develop normalcy plans and reports to ensure youth in the juvenile justice system have access to normalcy activities through the Strengthening Families Act.
  • LB 297, originally introduced by Senator John McCollister (LD 20-Omaha), would create a more effective system of data collection and sharing among child serving agencies to continue assessing the needs of children involved in the the child welfare system.
  • LB 336, originally introduced by Senator Merv Riepe (LD 12-Ralston), would allow the department to charge a fee for registry checks under the Child Protection and Family Safety Act.

While this package shows that our state senators understand the need for continued strengthening of our foster care and juvenile justice system, there are additional bills that still need to be advanced out of committee. These include:

  • LB 411 – Introduced by Senator Kate Bolz (LD 29-Lincoln), to ensure that whenever possible, all siblings are placed together in foster care, and when this is not possible, are provided opportunities for frequent visitation. Foster parents testified as to how sibling placements were not prioritized and the harmful lifelong effects that this has and will have on the children in their care.  
  • LB 226 – Introduced by Senator Anna Wishart (LD 27-Lincoln), would implement recommendations from youth and service providers to remove some of the many barriers youth in foster care face when trying to get a driver’s license, as well as purchasing a vehicle and car insurance. Providers testified to the future education and career goals that youth can have a better chance to reach when they have access to a driver’s license and a car.

Take Action!

Will you show your support for these bills that would provide safety, stability and normalcy for youth in foster care? Contact your senator and tell them to support these bills to protect the Nebraska’s children and families.

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