Foster Care in Nebraska: Realities, Challenges and Solutions
On any given day, over 3,000 children are in foster care in the state of Nebraska. They range in age from infants to 18 years old. The average age of a child in foster care is between 5-12 years old. The median amount of time that a child is in foster care is just over a year and a half. Nearly 60% of these children will be safely reunified with their parents or primary caregivers. Nearly 25% will be adopted, many by their foster parents when safely returning home is not an option.
However, six percent of Nebraska youth aged out of foster care in 2017 without being safely reunited with their family or adopted. To reduce the negative effects of this transition, Nebraska’s Bridge to Independence Program offers support. Youth receive Medicaid coverage, a monthly stipend for living expenses and a caseworker who helps them navigate any challenges. Youth who participate in this program must be working, seeking work or enrolled in school.
Help children and teens in your community. Learn more about becoming a foster parent today!
Reality: Youth In Foster Care Experience Unique Hardships
Youth who age out of foster care are less likely to graduate high school and earn a college education. As a result, they often face challenges in finding gainful employment. For example, only half of youth who were once in foster care finish high school and less than 3% graduate college. These devastating outcomes are often a result of increased school dropout rates, difficulty achieving passing grades, among other barriers. Fostering Educational Success seeks to improve middle and high school students’ educational outcomes and experiences while they navigate the transition out of foster care with their family. Families who participate in this program have a dedicated Family Coach who works with the student, family and school to ensure success.
Reality: Number of Youth In Nebraska Foster Care Is Decreasing
According to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (NDHHS), the number of youth placed in out-of-home foster care in Nebraska decreased 10.1% since 2018. Out-of-home care includes instances where children are cared for by relatives or other trusted adults they know (kinship care), by foster or adoptive families, receiving psychiatric treatment in a medical facility, living independently, in a group home, emergency shelter, detention facility or have run away.
The decrease began in Fall 2017 and has continued for the past two years. Data indicates that fewer children are entering foster care and that a high number of families were served through in-home, non-court services instead of out-of-home care like foster care. Early intervention and prevention programs like Intensive In-Home Services and Parents and Children Together are key to this decrease. These programs allow families to stay safely together. Highly-qualified, licensed clinicians and therapists work with families in their homes to stabilize crises, teach effective parenting skills, enhance child behavior and connect families to community resources.
Challenge: More Resources Needed
Access to substance abuse and mental health treatment, safety net supports and other community resources is declining in many communities. This makes it difficult for families to get the help they need when they need it.
In addition to the challenges driving increased demand for child and family services and mental health treatment, is another growing problem: there is a well-documented national social worker shortage. Particularly in rural areas, this can lead to higher caseloads for social workers, higher burnout and turnover, and decreased quality of services. Many states struggle to recruit, train and retain enough foster families to care for the number of children entering state custody. As a result, children may experience frequent moves, changes in schools or separation from siblings and family members.
Solution: Get Involved!
Families experiencing crisis need our help. You can help strengthen families, support youth in need and make a positive impact in your community by:
Become a foster parent
Foster parents play an important role in supporting children and families during difficult times. If you can open your heart and your home to children and teens in need, and work in partnership with birth families and child welfare professionals, you could be a great foster parent! Learn more about becoming a foster parent in Nebraska.
Pursue a career in social work
Social work is a helping profession that encompasses many different kinds of professionals who all serve people in need. Read this blog about 10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Life-Changing Impact of Social Work or browse our open positions on our careers page.
Donate or sponsor a fundraising event
Some children enter foster care with few or no belongings. We gladly accept donations of clothing, activity books, toys, stuffed animals, personal hygiene items, and holiday gifts. We also recruit donors to sponsor our golf tournament and Resource Family Conference, participate in our Holiday Heroes program or make a monetary donation.
Educate and advocate
Stay informed about what’s happening with the Nebraska child welfare system and advocate for prevention efforts that strengthen families. Follow this blog and KVC’s social media channels. We regularly post articles, highlight success stories and share free resources about child welfare and mental health.
Fill out the 2020 Census and encourage everyone you know to fill it out too! Two percent of Nebraska’s youngest children were not counted in the 2010 Census. Many of them were children of color, in low-income families, or living in hard to count communities. Talk with friends, family members, coworkers and others you know about the challenges families are facing. Then, rally everyone you know to make a positive impact in their community!