Over the last few years, both the Legislature and DHHS have invested time and resources in reforming our child welfare system. Between the progress already happening and changes in the works, they have taken intentional steps to ensure that our child welfare system is able to respond to the unique needs of Nebraska’s vulnerable children and families. It’s incredibly encouraging to see the commitment of our government officials to building a child welfare system that makes sure every child has the opportunity to grow up in a safe, stable, loving and supportive home.
While we are making progress, there is still room for improvement, especially for Native American children. While the total number of Native American children entering out-of-home care fell (213 in 2012 versus 283 in 2011), the percentage of Native children entering out-of-home care actually increased (8.22% in 2012 versus 4.8% in 2011).
Troubling statistics for Native children appear in other areas of the foster care system:
In spite of their small percentage in the target population, Native Americans represented the third highest number of children reentering the foster care in 2012.
The average time between removal from home and adoption for native children was 52.2 months, with the maximum length of time exceeding 110 months, both of which were higher than most other racial or ethnic groups.
The Legislature, like the Department, is invested in ensuring that our child welfare system is meeting the needs of all of Nebraska’s vulnerable children and families. As a result, members of the State-Tribal Relations Committee and members of the Health and Human Services Committee are holding a hearing tomorrow at 1:30pm to examine the high placement rate of Nebraska’s Native American children in foster care. Our hope is they make a commitment to reducing disparities for Native American children in the child welfare system.