After a crazy couple of weeks of work on child welfare bills, this week is the first since legislative hearings started where I won’t be making the trip to the state capitol in Lincoln to testify. While I’ll get some extra hours in the office to work on some ongoing projects, a few of my coworkers are gearing up for one of their busiest weeks yet – tackling issues from family and children’s access to health care, quality child care, and adequate, efficient economic assistance.
I plan on eagerly tuning into all of these hearings, not just because I want to cheer my coworkers on, but also because, ultimately, my work on improving the child welfare system is so closely connected to theirs. Victories for family economic stability and health care are child welfare victories.
The primary reason that families come to the attention of the child welfare system is because they are struggling to meet the needs of their children. For many, this neglect of basic needs is related to living in poverty. Parents in poverty struggle more to provide safe, stable housing, to ensure safe, quality supervision during their working hours, and to put food on the table to name just a few challenges.
Nebraska has more children and families who touch our child welfare system for reasons of neglect than the national average. The figure below provides more details on just how many cases relate to the basic needs of children going unfulfilled.
We must invest in strengthening families by looking at the adequacy of programs that support children and families in poverty. Perhaps part of the reason that Nebraska’s child welfare system has fallen behind is that we have not devoted enough attention and resources to the economic stability of our families.
If we care about children’s safety and healthy development, if we care about our child welfare system, it’s high time we make some wise investments in the programs that help parents keep their children safe.