A report issued by Nebraska Appleseed urges the state to implement policies to help foster youth experience a more normal childhood.
The report is entitled, “Letting Kids Be Kids: Nebraska’s Implementation of the Strengthening Families Act.”[PDF of report]
At a news conference held in the Capitol Rotunda, 21-year-old Raevin Bigelow, a former foster youth, said the federal act would allow foster parents to loosen restrictions that have kept foster children from engaging in regular activities; in experiencing a normal childhood.
“The Strengthening Families Act makes it easier for us to have these normal parts of growing up.,” Bigelow said. “We can learn what it means to work, work hard, be there for our friends, spend time with our classmates, and do things every kid should be able to do.”
Bigelow said the restrictions in her foster environment kept her from joining church activities, which she said would have allowed her to deal with some of the issues she faced in her youth.
Youth Law Center Executive Director Jennifer Rodriguez, in Nebraska to testify before a legislative hearing, said current law restricts the freedom foster parents can provide to foster youth. She says the Strengthening Families Act makes some needed adjustments.
“Give caregivers the assurance that they can make those sensible decisions like Raevin mentioned; to allow you to go to church, to allow them to participate in extra-curricular activities, to travel around Nebraska and out of state and feel like they are going to have the benefit of the doubt that they are really making decisions that are in the best interest of their children,” Rodriquez stated.
Legislation is being proposed for the Unicameral to consider in the upcoming session to make adjustment to align state law with federal guidelines.
Rodriguez says wholesale change isn’t needed, but adjustments are.
“Nebraska is no different from states across the rest of the country that for too long have been focused primarily on safety and, sort of, have been risk adverse and constantly thinking about how do we make sure we protect our system and the adults in it as opposed to thinking about how do we think about really nurturing, parenting, and giving young people the opportunity that they need to develop in a healthy way.”