By Patricia Jones, Alliance Community Task Force:
Most families try to do what is best for their children. But sometimes circumstances cause a situation to spin out of control. Sometimes the best solution is to remove the child from the home. Hopefully the situation is temporary, and the family can get the support they need to get back on track. Meanwhile, the child/children might be placed in foster care.
Children enter foster care because they or their families are in crisis. The family cannot take care of a child because of a death or incarceration of a parent, or maybe a health issue or addiction is creating the problem. Sometimes a child has been neglected, abused, or abandoned. Occasionally a parent cannot control a child's behavior, and the Court will order foster care if the judge thinks it is in the best interest of the child. Some children spend days in foster care; others are in the system for years.
The foster care system is operated by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Within DHHS there is a Division of Children and Family Services, which includes child welfare. The mission of the Division of Children and Family Services is to provide the least disruptive services when needed, for only as long as needed, to give children the opportunity to succeed as adults.
Foster parents provide care for children who cannot safely remain in their own home. Foster homes provide support for foster children through either the Department of Health and Human Services or a contracted foster care agency.
There are three types of foster parents in Nebraska. A Relative Foster Home has foster parents who are related to the child/children by blood, marriage, or adoption. A Kinship Foster Home relies on a relationship that has already been developed with the child, like a neighbor, godparent, or friend of the family. In a Licensed Foster Home, parents care for a child they have not previously known.
More than 5,000 children are in foster care in Nebraska. Foster parents are always needed, and they are asked to provide a safe, nurturing home environment for the children placed in their care.
There are requirements to become a licensed foster parent in our state. Members of the household must pass a background check, including fingerprinting. Three positive reference checks are required for each adult household member who will provide care to children. A home inspection is required and is conducted by either DHHS or a contracted foster care agency. The house must meet local fire codes and have a separate bed for each child. Adult household members providing care are required to attend foster parent pre-service training, provided by DHHS. The training lasts about 30 hours.
Foster parents are compensated for the expenses of providing food, clothing, shelter, and other necessary costs associated with caring for a child. Their reimbursement for fostering is discussed on a case-by-case basis as it truly depends on multiple factors.
There are three agencies in our area who train and license homes: DHHS, Guardian Light Family Services, and Saint Francis Ministries. People who might be interested in being foster parents can also call Nebraska Foster and Adoptive Parenting Association (NFAPA) to find what agencies serve specific towns.
Foster parents are always needed!