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Neutral Testimony on LB 874 – Licensure for Child-Specific Placements

January 27, 2012

To: Members of the Health and Human Services Committee

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

Re: Neutral Testimony on LB 874 – Licensure for Child-Specific Placements

Nationally and in Nebraska, child welfare agencies are moving towards using kinship care instead of traditional foster homes at increasing rates. This is a positive trend for children and can significantly minimize the trauma of out-of-home care, since they can live with someone they know and trust. Research has found relative placement beneficial based on several factors:  relative placements are more stable, more likely to result in legal guardianship with the relative,[1] and children in these placements are less likely to re-enter the system after reunification with their parents.[2]  Children in relative placements also report that they feel more loved and less stigmatized when living with family.[3]

However, kinship or child-specific placements also have unique needs, sometimes greater needs than traditional foster families, but since they are not licensed do not have the same support, in terms of training, financing, or experience with the system. They are not always equipped to deal with the needs of the children in their care.[4]

LB 874 aims to ensure children are placed in quality, safe environments while in out-of-home care while still allowing those related to the child by blood, marriage, or adoption to act as child-specific placements without being licensed. Voices for Children in Nebraska fully supports placing children in quality environments that can handle their needs, but is concerned the bill as currently written may limit the child- specific options for placement that may be less traumatic for a child. For example, family friends and godparents (considered “kin” in some states) would already have to be licensed in order to accept a child under LB 874.

Going forward, Nebraska should examine paths to licensure and kin-specific licensure that would ensure that child-specific placements unique needs are provided for and that children can live in safe, quality homes, preferably of those who are already known to them.

Thank you for taking the time to examine what is best for Nebraska’s increasing number of child-specific placements. Do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.

[1] “Propensity Score Matching of Children in Kinship and Nonkinship Foster Care: Do Permanency Outcomes Still Differ?” Dr. Eun Koh. Social Work Research. (2008)

“[2] Understanding reentry to out of home care for reunified infants”. Frame, L., Berrick, J. D., & Brodowski, M. L. Child Welfare (2000).

[3] “Kinship Care Research and Literature: Lessons Learned and Directions for Future Research”. James Gleeson. Kinship Reporter. (2007)

[4] “Kinship Care.” The Urban Institute:2002. http://www.urban.org/pubs/KinshipCare/chapter1.html

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