With the end of legislative session, the frenetic pace of work at Voices for Children has slowed just enough to us all some time for reflection on the work we’ve accomplished for Nebraska’s kids and the work that remains. And despite 25 years of Voices’ victories, there’s a lot of work that remains.
May is national foster care month – a time when organizations, media, and the public are all encouraged to highlight the stories of children and youth in our foster care system and take action to improve the system in some way, shape, or form. Despite the progress made by the Legislature this year on returning our child welfare system to stability, the need for a continued, concerted effort to improve the system is evident. Just listen to some of the stories shared by current and former foster youth who are part of Project Everlast. Or take a look at the data (all found in our Kids Count in Nebraska Report) that show how children and youth of color are over-represented in Nebraska’s foster care system, or the number of placement changes children experience, or the declining number of adoptions.
What can we do, as Nebraskans, to improve life for our most vulnerable young people? The time has come to take a hard look at the numbers and the stories of youth and push for smart investments in better services and interventions that keep kids safe and allow them the opportunity for healthy, normal development rather than causing further harm. There a plenty of improvements we know can make a significant difference – whether it’s working to keep kids in their same schools, guaranteeing them good access to physical and mental health care, or ensuring they preserve family and cultural ties. Now all we have to do is continue to push for what Nebraska’s foster youth deserve. The need for reform didn’t end with the “Session of Children” this year, and we’ll need all of you to help us ask for the changes our system and our children still need so desperately.