Every April, Voices for Children in Nebraska joins advocates and community members from across the country in promoting child and family well-being through National Child Abuse Prevention Month. We all have a role in ensuring that Nebraska is the best place to be a kid. This year’s theme, “Building Community, Building Hope,” reflects the need for a collective effort in preventing child maltreatment.
Children are our state’s greatest resource, and we charge our child welfare agency, the Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS), with the important task of protecting and supporting vulnerable children in our state. However, our efforts to address child maltreatment can only be successful if they are accompanied by efforts from other systems that are able to intervene before a family comes to the attention of DCFS.
Most parents want the best for their children, but certain circumstances—a sudden job loss, mental health issues, a medical crisis—can sometimes compromise parental capacity. The scope of child abuse prevention efforts is much broader from this perspective, and should prioritize important issues such as affordable child care, access to healthcare, and household hunger.
This April also happens to be an important time for setting priorities in Nebraska. Every two years, legislators put together a spending plan for the state. Faced with a near-$1 billion budget gap, agencies and policymakers have been looking for ways to make cuts to balance the budget. In the coming weeks, Nebraska senators will finalize the budget for 2017-2019. Senators will also consider a new tax proposal estimated to reduce state revenue by over $458 million by 2028. The complete picture of developments from this legislative session is a troubling vision of “building communities, building hope” for Nebraska families:
- Proposed cuts to services for abused and neglected children are being weighed alongside a tax package that will overwhelmingly benefit high-income individuals. Taken together, this means that these cuts are likely to be permanant becuase the tax cuts will worsen our budget situation in the future;
- On Tuesday, LB 358 (Sen. McCollister), which would have eased the cliff effect in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for hardworking Nebraska families failed to advance by one vote; and
- All the while, a number of pro-family bills are stalled in committee, including measures that would reform predatory payday loans and seek to bring child welfare caseloads into statutory compliance.
With just over 30 days remaining in session, time is running out for the Legislature take a pro-kid stance. We urge you to join us: stay updated on urgent issues and contact your state senator by becoming an advoKID!