Safety, permanency and well-being are goals for all children and youth, especially those in foster care, but what does permanency mean and what is being done in Nebraska to ensure that children and youth in foster care achieve permanency?
In short, permanency refers to the need of all children and youth of love, a sense of belonging and the continuity of family to support and sustain them throughout their lives. It is expressed through providing children with a permanent home and achieved by adoption and permanent/legal guardianship with a relative or family friend or by equipping the youth to live independently after aging out of care.
Child development experts agree that in order for a child to grow up as a healthy, functioning and productive member of society, a sense of a permanent home and family is key. Children thrive in an environment that includes an adult who is committed to their long-term well-being: someone they can depend on, monitor their grades, attend sporting events and ask about their friends.
However, when a child is removed from their homes and placed in foster care, they often lose these critical connections to both their family of origin and to their community. The longer a child remains in care, the more likely it is that the child will live in multiple placements, change schools, and lose contact with supportive teachers and friends, until permanency is achieved or the child “ages out” of the foster care system.
Creating safe, permanent, long-term connections is a goal that three child welfare bills prioritized this legislative session seeks to accomplish:
- LB 265 defines kinship and relative homes, exempts these homes from the licensure requirement for placement and removes barriers to licensure for extended family members and family friends who want to provide a permanent home for children in care.
- LB 530 provides an increase in the reimbursement foster care parents receive and continues work to ensure that foster care reimbursement rates accurately reflect the cost of raising children and minimize placement disruptions.
- LB 216 extends voluntary services to youth aging out of the foster care system. A young adult would be able to elect to extend services and supports until age 21 as long as the young adult is enrolled in and completing high school or a program leading to an equivalent credential (GED) and be employed at least 80 hours per month or in a program/activity designed to promote employment.