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Lincoln – May is National Foster Care Month in America. In past years, this month would feature planned gatherings all around the country to show support for foster care families. Last year in Nebraska over 150 people met at Dundee Theater in Omaha to watch a pre-screening of the HBO documentary Foster. With the outbreak of COVID-19, child welfare advocates are getting more creative in how they celebrate National Foster Care Month, while also following social distancing guidelines.
Child welfare providers like Better Living Counseling Services (BLCS) are showing their appreciation for foster care parents by distributing different gifts for each week of May. For week one and two, foster care parents will receive gift baskets that have been donated to BLCS, while during week three foster parents will be given an option to receive two hours of coverage at their home so the parents can get away for a much-needed mental break or to run errands. Finally, for the fourth week, families will receive gift cards to local eating establishments so they can do a carry-out dinner for the night.
Foster Family Services is hoping to hold an in-person event later this year, but for now will be sending each foster home a frame with a picture of the family's name along with a card. Other providers are also planning to hold events later in the year. South Central Behavioral Services had planned to rent bowling lanes at the Big Apple in Kearney in May for foster care families to enjoy however, the event has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They plan on rescheduling at a later date.
DHHS will be promoting the work done by Bring Up Nebraska to assist child welfare providers and other community partners around the state. Bring Up Nebraska, with First Lady Susanne Shore as one of the State's champions, aims to give local communities the ability to develop long-term plans using the latest strategies and data to prevent life's challenges from becoming a crisis for Nebraska families.
Bring Up Nebraska has been a critical partner in lowering the rates of children in the foster care system. The amount of children in Nebraska's foster care system has dropped every year since the program's start. Stephanie Beasley, Children and Family Services (CFS) Director, believes the partnership still has a lot of room for growth, explaining, “Since Bring Up Nebraska started, we have been able to build an even stronger infrastructure for families in this state. There is still a lot of work to do yet, and Bring Up Nebraska will be at the forefront in assisting with developing better resources for foster care families. I can't wait to see how the community grows over the next year."
Unduplicated count of youth out of home (OOH) during each period. Excludes YRTC and Tribal Court Children.