Nebraska Foster Care Numbers Skyrocket

A new report by the Nebraska Foster Care Review Office showed that a lot of work is needed in the state’s child welfare system. The independent agency has been tasked with the oversight of the well being of kids in out-of-home care. Thursday’s report is drawing attention to a disproportionate number of kids from minorities in foster care. The current statistics list 15 percent of state placements as African-American, 6 percent as Native American, 12.6 percent as biracial, and 20 percent as Latino. The concern is with the ratio of each that lives in Nebraska. Of the general population of the state, an estimated 6 percent are African-American, 2 percent are Native American, 4.5 percent are biracial, and 17 percent are Latino. According to the data, minority numbers are higher in the juvenile justice system, and children from minorities are more likely to be separated from their siblings in foster care. Numbers for foster care are up for the second year in a row. Historically, Nebraska has had some of the highest removal rates in the country. Those numbers seemed to be declining until a couple of years ago. From July 2016 until now, an increase of 5.1 percent of children was removed from their homes and placed in out-of-home care. Some specific areas showed much higher numbers. In the west, there was a 22 percent increase, and in the southeast, the increase was 12 percent. At any given time, Nebraska has over 4,000 kids in foster care. Julia Rogers, Nebraska’s Inspector General of Child Welfare, says, “It is striking and concerning.” She did say the numbers could reflect children who have stayed in foster care longer, not just new initial placements. Roger’s has called for action to get to the bottom of the statistics and figure out how to reverse them. Officials from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services are blaming the outcome of the study on parental substance abuse. Katherine Bass, Research Director for the Review Office, says 63 percent of cases that ended in the removal of a child from the home were due to neglect. She attributes removal to neglect to mental health issues, substance abuse, mental deficits, domestic violence, or poverty. Substance abuse was the second highest reason for removal. There are many reasons why children end up in foster care. The biggest concern is reducing the trauma of the children. Multiple placement locations, separation of siblings, and the changing of schools can cause further trauma.