All children deserve to be raised by responsible adults with whom the child feels a bond. When children cannot safely remain with their parents, the best choice is usually for them to lie with extended family members, family friends, or other trusted adults. This practice is commonly referred to as “kinship care.”
In 2012, a bill was passed by the Legislature requiring everyone providing care to foster children have a full license, unless they were related to a child by blood, marriage, or adoption. As an unintended consequence, the ability to place children coming into the child welfare system with close family friends, godparents, and other trusted adults—like former teachers or clergy—was severely limited, causing a decline in these types of placements.
Several national studies, including The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Stepping Up for Kids: What Government and Communities Should Do to Support Kinship Families report, found that regardless of the race, ethnic or socioeconomic conditions of the family, children who must be removed from their homes have better outcomes when they can maintain family and community bonds, as these provide children with a sense of stability, identity and belonging during this time of upheaval. Kinship care helps prevent the unnecessary trauma of adjusting to an unfamiliar placement with adults the children do not already know.
As a result, Senator Coash introduced LB 265 with the purpose of:
- Helping to remove some of the barriers to placing children with extended family members and family friends (aka “kinship care”),
- Removing barriers to licensing these placements, and
- Encouraging support for kinship homes.
We worked diligently to pass this change by providing testimony and meeting with senators to garner support for the proposed bill.
The bill was debated extensively and ultimately passed Final Reading. The Governor signed it into law last week.
While being removed from their homes is always stressful for children, LB 265 means that more children will be able to maintain connections with their families and feel loved—even in times of crisis.