Stateline Midwest ~ May 2012

Tackling an issue that many of them viewed as the most important policy priority of 2012, Nebraska lawmakers have adopted a series of reforms to a child-welfare system mired in controversy and turmoil.

Child maltreatment is a tragic, but common, problem in the United States. As a result, there are nearly 2,000 tragic child deaths a year. Under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, states can transparently investigate and report such cases and publicly disclose deaths stemming from child maltreatment. Some states have recently amended statutes to improve transparency regarding the reporting of fatal or near-fatal child maltreatment cases.

This Act prohibits, to the extent allowed by federal law, requiring a private child-placing agency to perform, assist, counsel, recommend, consent to, refer, or participate in any placement of a child for foster care or adoption when the proposed placement would violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies. This Act prohibits, to the extent allowed by federal law, requiring a private child-placing agency to perform, assist, counsel, recommend, consent to, refer, or participate in any placement of a child for foster care or adoption when the proposed placement would violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies. 

All states but North Dakota experienced an increase in participation in the SNAP program between May 2010 and May 2011; 21 states had a double digit annual growth in the number of people depending on SNAP benefits. SNAP program costs are projected by CBO to decline as the economic recovery takes hold more fully. Every $1 spent on SNAP benefits generates $1.79 in total economic activity, according to the USDA. 

The number of poor children has been on the rise for the past 10 years, although those increases vary across state and racial and ethnic lines.  Higher childhood poverty rates mean bigger costs to states, including future health and criminal justice expenses.  

This Act directs the state housing and development authority to determine the number of homeless people, including homeless children, in the state, and the number of homeless people in the state who are not residents of the state; oversee and encourage a regional homeless delivery system; and facilitate the dissemination of information to help people access local resources related to homelessness, housing, and community development.

This Act creates a pilot program to provide enhanced, special services to children between four and ten years old who are placed in foster care. The program is intended to reduce the emotional trauma to children who enter foster care. 

At a time when good news seems to be scarce, the number of U.S. children in foster care is down sharply, according to new data released by the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services. The number of foster children fell by over 20 percent during the last decade, from 540,000 in care ten years ago to 423,773 in care on September 30, 2009.

In response to the tragic death of a child in foster care in Wisconsin, the state has moved aggressively to improve it's child-welfare system.   The state has also targeted fraud in its state-financed childcare system.

This report includes bar charts for outcome indicators for two major child welfare programs administered by states—adoption and foster care.  This includes the nubmer of children per thousand in the foster care system who were victims of maltreatment by a foster parent or facility staff member; the percent of children reunited with their families in less than 12 months; the median time to adoption from time of latest removal from the home; the percent of children in the foster care system for less than 12 months that had two or fewer placements; the percent of children in the foster care system for 12 to 23 months that had two or fewer placements; the percent of children in the foster care system for 24 or more months that had two or fewer placements; and the percent of children that re-entered foster care in less than 12 months of being reunited with their families.

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