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Foster Care Fairness – Support LB 385

March 14, 2013

To: Members of the Judiciary Committee

From: Sarah Forrest, Policy Coordinator- Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice

Re: Support for LB 385—Foster Care Fairness Act

Voices for Children supports LB 385, which seeks to ensure that all families willing to provide a nurturing home to Nebraska’s abused and neglected children are given fair and equal consideration to serve as licensed foster and adoptive placements.

1.       Nebraska has a need for additional licensed foster care placements.   Every day 8 children are removed from their homes and placed in DHHS custody,[i] contributing to Nebraska’s 3,783 children currently in out-of-home care.[ii]   In 2011, 27% of the children in out-of-home care lived in congregate care facilities, ranging from shelters to groups homes to detention centers.[iii] In addition to the high costs associated with congregate care facilities (about 6-10 times the amount of a family style foster home), their use has been linked to additional juvenile justice involvement and conduct disorders. [iv] Nebraska also has an inadequate and declining number of licensed foster homes. In 2011, Nebraska lost 7% of its licensed foster homes.[v] As we seek to keep more children in their communities and out of institutions, we must ensure that we take steps that empower loving families to care for our vulnerable youth.

2.       LB 385 would prevent arbitrary, discriminatory practices.   The majority of states have eliminated practices that prevent placement discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, gender identification, disability or national origin by accepting applications and placing children in homes with members of all protected classes, resulting in an estimated 65,500 children being adopted.[vi]  11 states and the District of Columbia have codified this practice through adoption laws, statutes and/or high court decisions.  Nebraska, however, is one of only 5 states to have policies that restrict or prohibit the suitability of potential foster and adoptive placements by class membership.[vii]  There is no scientific basis for concluding that families are unfit to parent on the basis of their sexual orientation, marital status, race or gender.  As the children in care come from diverse backgrounds and experiences, it is imperative to have foster parents from a cross-section of demographics to ensure that children are placed in homes that will nurture and support the children’s healthy development.[viii]

3.       Living in a family-like setting promotes children’s well-being.  Placing children with families who can meet their needs is crucial in eliminating placement disruptions.   Having too few homes forces child welfare agencies to make placements based on what is available to, rather than what is appropriate for, the child.[ix]   Due to overcrowding, safety concerns and the inability of the current foster parent to provide the necessary emotional support, 50% of the children in care reviewed in June 2012 reported residing in 4 or more different placements throughout their lifetimes,[x] a factor that has been linked to poor developmental outcomes.[xi]   With an estimated 2 million adults in the United States interested in fostering and adoption, eliminating suitability barriers can prove to be a powerful resource to providing permanency for children in care by creating  additional placement options and the chance of a family who might be a better fit.[xii]

LB 385 removes discriminatory barriers to licensure for families who otherwise have the knowledge, skills, capacity and experience to meet the needs of children in out-of-home care.   We urge the committee to advance LB 385 as a key part of ensuring our most vulnerable children get the care and love they deserve.



[i] Kids Count in Nebraska 2012 Report.

[ii] Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, State Wards: In Home/Out of Home Weekly Point-In-Time 2013 Report.

[iii] Foster Care Review Office/Kids Count 2012 Report fig. 10

[iv] Joseph P. Ryan, Ph.D., Jane Marie Marshall, Denise Herz, Pedro M. Hernandez, Juvenile Delinquency in Child Welfare: Investigating Group Home Effects. Chicago: University of Illinois at Urbana, 2008

[v] Kids Count in Nebraska 2012 Report.

[vi] Sabrina Tavernise, “Adoptions By Gay Couples Rise, Despite Barriers,” New York Times, June 13, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/14/us/14adoption.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

[vii] Sarah Kaye and Katherine Kuvalanka, Impact of Gay Adoption Laws on Foster Care Youth. Baltimore: University of Maryland, Department of Family Studies, 2006.

[viii] Kathy Barbell & Madelyn Freundlich, Foster Care Today, Washington DC: Casey Family Programs, 2001.

[ix] John McMahon, “Foster Care Placement Disruptions in North Carolina,” Fostering Perspectives 10 (2005): 1.

[x] The Nebraska Foster Care Review Office Annual Report, Issued December 2012.

[xi] Anna Brown, Soni McCarty, Marisol Tobey, Nicole Brenenstuhl, The Effects of Multiple Placements on Children in Foster Care and How to Prevent Them. Tallahassee: Florida Department of Children and Families, 2006.

[xii] Gary G. Gates, M.V. Lee Badgett, Jennifer Ehrle Macomber and Kate Chambers, Adoptions and Foster Care by Gay and Lesbian Parents in the United States. Los Angeles: Williams Institute, 2007.

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