Ensure Foster Parents Receive the Resources to Meet Children’s Basic Needs

LB 926 ensures that foster parents in Nebraska will be provided with the resources necessary to meet children’s basic needs.  We thank Sen. Dubas and the other co-sponsors for their commitment to improving the child welfare system and ask that you vote to advance LB 926.

[DDET LB 926 Testimony] Senator Kathy Campbell
Chair, Health and Human Services Committee
Room 1402, State Capitol
Lincoln, NE 68509

Chairwoman Campbell and members of the Health and Human Services Committee,

On behalf of the Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest, I am here to testify in support of LB 926.

We support LB 926 because we believe children should receive adequate support when they must be placed in out-of-home care.  This bill requires Nebraska to adopt the foster care rate as determined by the “Foster Care Minimum Adequate Rate for Children” or MARC.[i]  The rate set by the MARC takes into account the cost of food, clothing, shelter, daily supervision, school supplies, and personal incidents as required under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act.[ii]  We believe it is important that Nebraska is in compliance with federal law and that foster care rates in Nebraska take into account the cost of and the cost for providing for children’s basic needs while in out-of-home care.[iii]

In 2007, the MARC study revealed that Nebraska had one of the lowest base rates in the country and the lowest base rate of any state in the country for the youngest children. For example, this study found that Nebraska paid an average rate of $226 for the care of a two-year-old child as opposed to Wyoming, which paid an average rate of $645, and Kansas, which paid a rate of $603.  Unfortunately, foster care rates in Nebraska have not improved significantly since the MARC study. In fact, since the privatization of child welfare services in Nebraska, many foster parents have actually seen a reduction in financial support and have been asked to take on additional responsibilities and provide additional services.  Furthermore, there is inconsistency in foster care rates across the state and even inconsistency in foster care rates offered by different private contractors.  Moreover, we think it is problematic that the state’s contract with lead agencies does not require them to pay an adequate rate that covers the cost of children’s basic needs as required by federal law, nor does it provide oversight to insure that all subcontracting agencies are doing so.  Therefore, we support that LB 926 would eliminate the existing inconsistency and mandate an adequate minimum rate.

In addition, LB 926 requires that foster care payments be made directly to the foster parent for the benefit of the children. While we support that direct payment could eliminate unnecessary administrative costs among contractors and subcontractors, which we think is a significant concern, we believe it is important that necessary funding for the recruitment, training and support of foster parents is retained.  We understand that this issue is being addressed in an amendment, which we would support.

Finally, we strongly support the provision in LB 926 that recognize the value of relative placements for children by insuring that relative placements receive adequate support while they pursue the requisite licensure. This would allow relatives to provide foster care immediately and insures that they will be provided with the same support as a non-relative placement.  Research supports that children who are placed with relatives or someone previously known to the child tend to have better outcomes than children who are placed with strangers and that placements with relatives tend to be more stable than non-relative placements.[iv]

In conclusion, while we believe it is important that children receive adequate support as required by federal law when they must be placed in out-of-home care, it is critical that this same effort is redoubled to prevent children from being placed in out-of-home care in the first place.  We therefore support LB 926 and see it as a part of a larger package of reforms that must focus on investing in wrap-around services to support families.

LB 926 ensures that foster parents in Nebraska will be provided with the resources necessary to meet children’s basic needs.  We thank Sen. Dubas and the other co-sponsors for their commitment to improving the child welfare system and ask that you vote to advance LB 926.

Sincerely,

 

Sarah Helvey
Staff Attorney/Director
Child Welfare System Accountability Program

 

Robert McEwen
Staff Attorney (Not yet admitted in Nebraska)
Child Welfare System Accountability Program


[i] Children’s Rights, National Foster Parent Association, University of Maryland School of Social Work, Hitting the M.A.R.C.: Establishing Foster Care Minimum Adequate Rates for Children, October 2007, available at: http://www.childrensrights.org

/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/hitting_the_marc_summary_october_2007.pdf.

[ii] 42 U.S.C. 675(4)(a)

[iii] California State Foster Parent Association v. Wagner et al., 620 F.3d 1115 (9th Cir. 2010); Missouri Child Care Association v. Martin, 241 F. Supp. 2d 1032 (W.D. Mo. 2003); C.H. et al. v. James W. Payne/The Indiana Association of Residential Child Care Agencies (IARCCA) v. the Indiana Department of Child Services and James Payne, 683 F. Supp. 2d 865 (S.D. Ind. 2010).

[iv] M. Testa, Kinship Care and Permanency , 28 J. OF  SOC . SERVICES  RESEARCH , 25-43 (2002).

D. Webster, R.P. Barth, & B. Needell, Placement Stability for Children in Out-of-Home Care: A Longitudinal Analysis , 79 CHILD WELFARE , 614-632 (2000).

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