Newsroom > DHHS News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 24, 2009
Jeanne Atkinson, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-8287
Carol Stitt, Nebraska Foster Care Review Board, (402) 471-4420
Please Note: The special study can be found at: http://www.dhhs.ne.gov/Documents/PermanentHomesReport.pdf
Joint Study Shows Positive Trends for Children
Lincoln - A review of the cases of 230 children in foster care more than two years shows positive results, according to the Nebraska State Foster Care Review Board (FCRB) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
During 2008, the two agencies collaborated on a joint study of a group of 230 children who had a plan of reunification with a parent and who had been in foster care for two years or longer. CFS caseworkers and supervisors partnered with FCRB staff on this special study.
“The study shows that we’re definitely moving in the right direction in finding children permanent homes,” said Todd Landry, director of the Division of Children and Family Services (CFS) in DHHS. “I appreciate the dedication and willingness to collaborate shown by staff in both of our agencies.”
“We originally planned to examine cases from April 2008 involving 550 children who met the study criteria,” said Carol Stitt, director of the Nebraska Foster Care Review Board. “When data collection began in August, plans had already changed to adoption, guardianship or other permanency for 320 of the children. It was gratifying to learn that so many had already moved toward permanency by the time the study began.”
The joint initiative found several positive benefits for the identified children. For instance:
- Services were provided within 60 days of removal for 83% of the children;
- Over half (50.9%) of the children had three or fewer caseworkers over the lifetime of the case;
- Children’s court hearings are occurring every six months for 82.2% of the children; and
- An additional 111 children’s plans were changed as a result of the study.
“This study highlights the importance of keeping the focus on stability for children and on finding safe placements,” said Stitt. “I want to thank everyone involved for working together to gather this important information, staff these cases, and focus on these children.”
Several areas of concern were identified that need to have a continued focus, including:
- There needs to be a focus on strengthening stability and safety of placements;
- In 52.6% of the cases, the number one barrier to reunification for children in out-of-home care for two years or longer was the parent not being able or willing to parent (121 of the 230 children); and
- For 18.8% of the children, safety concerns were identified despite visitation being supervised or monitored.
The study provided critical information and lessons learned regarding timely permanency (adoption, guardianship, safe return home) for these children and others, particularly around the issues of parental compliance, placement issues, feasibility of reunification as a plan, lack of sibling contact, and identification of other barriers to permanency.
“In the past year, we’ve made a concerted effort to develop stronger relationships, particularly with the courts,” said Landry. “I commend Nebraska’s judges for their ongoing efforts to improve the welfare and safety of children and youth.”