Foster Care

On any given day, nearly 5,552 children are in the Nebraska foster care system. Through no fault of their own, many of these children have experienced abuse, neglect or other family challenges and have been removed from their homes by the courts for their safety. Relatives, non-related kin and foster families provide care and support for these children while they are in out-of-home care.

Foster care is a safe place that gives a child and his or her birth family an opportunity to resolve conflicts or disruptions and learn healthy skills so the child can safely return home. Many birth families need help in learning effective parenting skills, overcoming substance use or learning healthy ways to cope with the trauma they themselves have experienced.

Nearly 60% of children who enter foster care in Nebraska are safely reunited with their birth families. If a child cannot be safely reunited with his or her birth family, the goal becomes to find a permanent home for the child through adoption, relative placement, custodianship (guardianship) or, for older youth, independent living.

At KVC, one of our core services is recruiting, training, licensing and supporting foster families to care for children ages birth to 18 (the greatest needs are for youth age 13 and older). These families offer the essential stability each child needs by providing a home, food, clothing, education, access to medical care, supervision and transportation, support, nurturing and guidance. Foster families also play an important role in helping each child achieve safe and timely permanency. KVC staff are on call 24/7 to offer support, advice and crisis intervention to foster parents who open their homes to children and youth in need.

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What is foster care?

Foster care in Nebraska provides a temporary arrangement for a child when they are not able to live with their biological parents or other natural caregivers. During this time, child welfare professionals work to find the best possible relative, foster family or other placement option for that child until they can safely return home or a permanency plan is identified.

Different types of foster care exist to meet the unique needs of each child and family including relative/kinship care, non-related kin, traditional foster care, specialized therapeutic or medical foster care and respite care. Learn more about the types of foster care here.

Who are in Nebraska foster care?

On any given day, nearly 5,552 Nebraskan children are in foster care. They range from infants to 18 years old, and even up to 21 years old in the states that have extended foster care. The average age of a child in foster care is 9 years old, and there are slightly more boys than girls. The median amount of time that a child is in foster care is just over a year. More than half of these children will be safely reunified with their parents or primary caregivers, and nearly one-quarter will be adopted, many by their foster parents. In the U.S. over 20,000 youth leave the foster care system each year because they have not yet been safely reunited with their families or adopted, and are too old to remain in state custody.

Why are children in foster care?

Most of the children and teens in foster care have experienced child abuse or neglect in some capacity. Each state determines how physical, sexual and emotional abuse are defined, and youth enter foster care if it meets these criteria. Neglect can include physical neglect, medical neglect or lack of supervision. Physical neglect includes but is not limited to failure to provide the child with food, clothing or shelter necessary to sustain the life or health of the child. Other reasons can include the parents are incarcerated or abandonment.

How many children are in Nebraska foster care?

As of June 2018, there are 5,552 children teens in foster care in Nebraska. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services updates the data of current youth being served here. According to a 2017 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) report, the number of children in the foster care system nationally has increased for the fourth year in a row. Most government agencies and journalists attribute the rise, in part, to increased parental substance abuse. Of the 15 categories, states can report for the circumstances associated with a child’s removal from home and placement into care, drug abuse by a parent had the largest percentage point increase. Neglect as a circumstance around removal has also been increasing.

What is the main goal of foster care?

When youth cannot remain safely in their homes and must enter foster care, the first goal of foster care is to safely reunite them with their families as soon as possible. The most common outcome for children in Nebraska foster care is a safe reunification with their families. Nationwide, more than half of youth who enter foster care are safely reunified. The average length of time a child is in foster care is about a year, but much of this is dependent on how long it takes for the family to resolve their conflicts or disruptions and demonstrate that their home is safe for their child to return home.