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National Foster Care Month an opportunity for real change for Nebraska’s kids

Today, President Barack Obama signed a proclamation making May National Foster Care Month.  Since 1988, May has been designated as the month to recognize the contributions of foster parents and call attention to the needs of children in our nation’s foster care systems.

Nationally, 382,400 children under 18 currently are in foster care because their own families are in crisis and unable to provide for their essential well-being.  In Nebraska, 5,926 kids entered our child welfare system in 2011.  No matter their age, all kids in our child welfare system need a meaningful connection to at least one caring adult who becomes a supportive and lasting presence in their lives.

I have long had a love-hate relationship with these sorts of designated months and proclamations.  While it is great to draw attention to the pressing issues facing our children and families, signing a piece of paper with a proclamation on it doesn’t really solve anything on its own.

This year, Nebraska’s lawmakers have an excellent opportunity to make good on the promises made in those proclamations.  Three bills before the legislature would help creating safe, permanent, long-term connections for youth in foster care:

  • LB 265 removes barriers to placing children with relatives and other trusted adults. Usually referred to as “kinship care,” these placements have been shown to benefit children’s health and stability.  The bill is currently on Final Reading.
  • LB 530 provides an increase in  foster care reimbursement rates  and help minimize placement disruptions. The bill is currently on Final Reading.
  • LB 216 extends voluntary services to youth aging out of the foster care system.  This bill is currently on Select File.

With the Legislative Session coming to an end soon, Nebraska’s lawmakers have the opportunity to celebrate National Foster Care Month in a big way – by passing actual legislation aimed at help children and youth in our foster care system find loving, permanent connections.

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