State officials report the number of children in state custody is falling.
Children and Family Services Director Thomas Pristow says the division is concentrating on efforts to return children to their home, if it can be done safely.
“Let’s say we remove the child from the home for abuse and neglect and the goal of the disposition is to reunify. The first thing we do is make sure that as we start the visits and we start looking at treatment protocols that safety is the utmost importance for us,” Pristow tells Nebraska Radio Network.
There are 837 fewer state wards in the child welfare system now than in March of 2012, a decrease of better than 13%. The number of children in out-of-home care fell nearly 10% to a total of 3,680.
Pristow says it can be difficult to pinpoint which children can be safely returned to their home.
“There’s not one size fits all. Some reunifications can occur quickly. Some take a little bit more time and in some cases we aren’t able to reunify, because the parents can’t make the environment safe for the child,” Pristow says.
The number of state wards peaked at 7,803 in April of 2006. The latest count in mid-July placed that number at 5,284.