We are commemorating our 25th Anniversary with 25 posts about our history and accomplishments between now and the Spotlight Gala on September 15. Join us for a celebration of Voices for Children and all of the organizations, lawmakers, and individuals who have supported our work on behalf of children. For details, visit voicesforchildren.com/spotlight-gala.
Anyone who recognizes the name Voices for Children in Nebraska probably knows we do work on improving the child welfare system. It was the system we were in large part created to help reform and it would be impossible to take a look at our history without highlighting a couple of major accomplishments and improvements we’ve made for Nebraska children in foster care.
Back in the late 1990s, an increasing number of children were being removed from their homes. These same children were languishing foster care for years, moving from placement to placement. Out-of-home care simply isn’t an ideal place for children – they need loving, permanent families to really thrive and succeed.
In 1997, the federal government passed a crucial piece of legislation that put children’s safety, permanency, and well-being at the heart of the child welfare system. The Adoption and Safe Families Act (AFSA, for short), aimed to transition children who couldn’t be reunified with their birth families to permanent homes more quickly, by requiring permanency hearings and putting court deadlines in place, providing financial incentives for adoption, and increasing attention on family bonds with siblings and other relatives.
Just a few months later, Voices for Children worked diligently with legislators to adopt Nebraska’s own version of AFSA, which became law in 1998. The law placed children’s safety, permanency, and well-being at the center of child welfare decisions in our state. New timelines and provisions provided incentives for system stakeholders to work more quickly for children to having the loving, permanent, safe home they deserve – whether through reunification or adoption.
While there’s clearly much more work to do to both improve our foster care system and prevent children from entering it in the first place, AFSA laid out key principles that Nebraska’s child welfare system is still trying to live up to.