Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Foster care in Nebraska: The Governor agrees: His state takes too many children

UPDATE, MARCH 19: The Lincoln Journal Star also agrees in an editorial today.

Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman had an interesting perspective on NCCPR’s new report on Nebraska child welfare.  The report says that Nebraska takes away too many children.

The governor says we’re right.  He told the Nebraska Radio Network:

Another key issue that we still haven’t resolved yet that we need to get to the bottom of: why in this family-friendly state called Nebraska do twice as many kids come in to our child welfare system as any other state in America? We need to address that.

He doesn’t have the figures quite right – Nebraska’s rate of child removal is more than double the national average when comparing entries into foster care to total child population.  Using the fairer method that factors in rates of child poverty, Nebraska’s rate of removal is more than triple the national average.  But at least Heineman is saying he seems to realize that wrongful removal is the problem that is driving everything else.

The governor says he’s not ready to decide if he’ll sign a series of child welfare bills likely to pass soon – bills which have one thing in common: They do absolutely nothing to address the state’s obscene rate of removal.  As for what he could do: So far, his state human services agency has committed itself to applying for a waiver from federal funding restrictions.  That was one of our 25 recommendations for reform.  How about the other 24? He could start by admitting that the disastrous law he pushed that punishes children for being sick and unable to attend school needs to be repealed.

The governor’s response probably is a result of the extensive coverage of the news conference called by NCCPR and the Family Advocacy Movement to release the report at the State Capitol Monday.

That coverage included this story from KLKN-TV in Lincoln:

And also:  KOLN/KGIN, Lincoln/Grand Island, KHAS-TV, Hastings/Grand Island, KVNO Public Radio, the Associated Press, Nebraska Watchdog, and the Omaha World-Herald.  The Nebraska Radio Network’s story includes the audio for the entire news conference.