Family finding pilot project amended, advanced

A bill that would create a pilot project to establish family connections for state wards was amended and advanced from select file April 29.

As introduced by Lincoln Sen. Kate Bolz, LB243 would create a four-year statewide pilot program to provide family finding services in two or more service areas. The state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) would contract with providers to carry out the program and would provide oversight.

The department also would be required to establish a data collection system and contract with an academic institution to complete an independent evaluation of the pilot project’s effectiveness.

Bolz offered an amendment during select file debate that added provisions of LB441, which she sponsored.

The amendment would make several technical changes to the Bridge to Independence Program, designed to assist youth who are aging out of the state’s foster care system.

Among other changes, the amendment would:
• offer youth a choice between the program or extended guardianship;
• update language referring to juveniles as children;
• include medical care for youth in extended guardianships;
• mandate extended medical assistance services coverage; and
• add a provision regarding the final hearing before DHHS jurisdiction is terminated to identify available resources.

Bellevue Sen. Sue Crawford supported the amendment, saying it provided needed clarifications to the Bridges to Independence Program.

“This is a very important program to make sure that we create a setting in which our foster youth are able to transition to independence,” she said.

The amendment was adopted 25-1.

A second Bolz amendment, adopted 26-1, removed “fictive kin” and domestic partner from the bill’s definition of a family member. Instead, the amendment would add any individual who is a primary caretaker or trusted adult in a kinship home.

The amendment defines a kinship home as a home in which a child receives foster care and at least one of the primary caretakers has previously lived with or is a trusted adult that has a preexisting, significant relationship with the child.

Bolz said the amendment aligns the bill with existing statutes and addressed concerns expressed during general file debate.

Following adoption of the amendments, LB243 was advanced to final reading by voice vote.

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