Keeping kids in loving homes good investment

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The crisis that came to light after Nebraska's legislature inadvertently made it possible for parents to drop off teenagers at the nearest hospital is playing itself out in the real world.

The Unicameral fixed the safe haven law by limiting it to infants 30 days old or younger, but now comes the tougher task of delivering on the promises made before the law was changed.

Thanks to LB 603, contracts have been signed and the family Helpline and Navigator Programs designed to help parents find the help they need will go into effect on Jan. 1.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday that the number of children legally wards of the state was 6,348 in September, down from an all-time high of 7,803 in April 2006.

It was progress that needed to be made.

"We've seen data showing Nebraska ranks second highest in the nation in removing children from their homes, and we all agree too many children are in the state's care," said Todd Reckling, director of the Division of Children and Family Services admitted in Monday's release.

"We began aggressively addressing this issue a couple of years ago, along with our system partners and are seeing positive results in achieving measurable outcomes. We have much more work to do, but we're definitely headed in the right direction."

The DHHS also pointed to adoptions of state wards, up 92.6 percent since 2003 with an all-time high of 572 in 2008, the fact that more children are safely leaving the state's care than entering it for the third year in a row, and said "Nebraska is leading the nation in establishing permancy for children in foster care for long periods of time," as signs of progress.

But caring for children is never the state's first choice, and finding ways to do it effectively and compassionately is never easy.

For instance, two-dozen special-needs children in residential and other programs at the I Believe in Me Ranch at Kearney will have to find somewhere else to go by the end of October.

After a state audit found the troubled nonprofit group overcharging the state and its taxpayers some $15,000 a month for three nondescript buildings, the ranch's executive director announced it would have to close this month.

It's true that some children are better off living somewhere else than with their biological parents, and some children require more care than their parents can provide.

But the current situation is further proof that making it possible that as many children as possible are in loving, stable homes homes is a good investment of taxpayer dollars.

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  • Having Nebraska rank second in the nation in having children removed from abusive and neglectful homes is something to be celebrated not condemned. Ask any teacher if some children would be better off removed from that type of home and they will say yes. Also ask them that when a child is removed and the child starts doing better physically, emotionally and academically if they think it works to return that child to the same disfunctional home and they will say no. Ask the teacher if they think that if one child is removed from the home should all the children be removed and they will say yes. Sure the state saves money by keeping children in disfunctional homes and returning them to the still disfunctional home ASAP but money should not be the major factor. Keeping children safe, healthy and happy should be the top goal.

    -- Posted by dennis on Wed, Oct 21, 2009, at 9:23 AM
  • Good points, Dennis. Also note that Voices for Children reports that the state is fourth highest in the number of children dying from child abuse. See http://journalstar.com/news/local/article_542bdfd8-bde3-11de-a424-001cc4c002e0.h...

    -- Posted by croswind on Wed, Oct 21, 2009, at 12:23 PM
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