There are two key objectives at the core of any child welfare system: preventing child abuse and neglect by strengthening families and responding quickly, but thoughtfully, to reports of child maltreatment in order to minimize trauma.
Last month, the Foster Care Review Office released its 2013 Annual Report, which independently measures how Nebraska’s child welfare system is meeting these objectives.
The report showed that we have a lot to celebrate, including:
- a decrease in the number of Nebraska children in out-of-home care during some point of their lives;
- a decrease in the number of children in out-of-home care on December 31, 2012; and,
- for sibling groups who are not placed together, a majority of them (67%) have regular visitation.
The Department’s and Legislature’s initiatives to ensure that our child welfare system is truly child-focused have been paying off. But this does not mean that the work is over, as the report also highlighted areas where improvements can still be made:
- there was a slight decline in the use of relatives as foster placements and an increase in the use of traditional foster homes and group homes;
- though the majority of children experience between 1-3 placement changes during their lifetimes, 172 children reportedly experienced 21 or more placement changes. At least one child in each of the state’s 6 service areas had 21 or more placement changes. National research indicates that children experiencing 4 or more placements over their lifetimes are likely to be permanently damaged as a result of the instability and trauma of broken attachments; and,
- racial disparity continues to plague the child welfare system as children of color continue to be disproportionately represented.
Though this data is troubling, through research and collaboration, we are learning what works when it comes to child welfare. By maintaining our commitment to strengthening families and responding thoughtfully to allegations of abuse and neglect, we can continue to make improvements to Nebraska’s child welfare system and produce positive outcomes for Nebraska’s children and families.