Foster care changes advance

Senators gave first-round approval April 7 to a bill that would make several changes to the Nebraska foster care system.

Lincoln Sen. Kathy Campbell said LB177 is intended to assist the state Department of Health and Human Services in implementing three specific requirements of the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008.

A Health and Human Services Committee amendment, adopted 36-0, replaced the bill and would require HHS to notify adult relatives within 30 days of a child’s removal from his or her home. An exception would be provided if an adult relative’s history of domestic or family violence would make notification inappropriate.

The bill also would require that HHS and the court make reasonable efforts to place siblings together and provide visitation or ongoing interaction when siblings are not placed together. An exception would be provided if joint placement or visitation would be contrary to the safety and well being of any sibling.

Campbell said the bill’s goal is to provide each child in the foster care system the best possible chance for a positive outcome.

“We all know the importance of family in our own lives,” she said. “LB177 stresses that we know from best practices that placement with kin is so important.”

Finally, the bill would require the department to develop an individual proposal for each child transitioning out of foster care into adulthood. Such a proposal would include assessment of a foster child’s educational, employment, housing, health care and other support needs.

Omaha Sen. Gwen Howard offered an amendment, adopted 35-0, that would clarify that a foster child’s family unit includes all siblings, even those who have not resided together prior to placement in foster care.

“I want to make crystal clear our intention that the right to sibling relationships is not infringed upon when the state makes placement decisions,” Howard said. “[Siblings] can provide natural support and a sense of belonging to one another.”

The bill advanced to select file on a 40-0 vote.

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