Nebraska child welfare sees increase in out-of-home care

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A state oversight agency report says Nebraska’s child welfare system showed little progress in keeping children in their homes.

The Lincoln Journal Star ( ) reports the Nebraska Foster Care Review Office said Thursday that the number of children in out-of-home care increased during the year that ended June 30, compared with the year before.

According to the agency, neglect was the most common reason why children were removed from their homes, followed by parental drug use and unsafe housing.

The annual report said there were 3,145 abused and neglected children in foster homes, group homes, emergency shelters and other out-of-home placements on June 30 this year. That is a 4 percent increase from the previous year, and represented the first increase in nearly three years.

According to the report, a total of 5,630 children spent time in out-of-home care during the 2014-15 fiscal year compared to 5,466 the previous year.

The increases have occurred despite the fact that reducing the number of children removed from their homes has been a key goal of child welfare reform in Nebraska since 2009.

The agency also reports that there were 869 juvenile offenders in out-of-home placements as of Nov. 16. The agency said that Native American and black children account for a larger proportion of the children in out-of-home care than they do of the general population, while white children are a smaller proportion of those in out-of-home care than in the general population.

Kim Hawekotte, executive director for the review office, called the data “disappointing.”

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services said it had not seen the report, but the agency appreciates the work of the review office.

State Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln, the Health and Human Services Committee chairwoman, said she had not seen the report and could not comment.

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