Editorial, 4/1: Coash study deserves priority
Posted: Saturday, March 31, 2012 11:59 pm
Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln has zeroed in on the right target in the ongoing effort to improve Nebraska’s child welfare system.
A resolution he has introduced calls for a study of the reasons why Nebraska takes children from their homes and puts them into out-of-home care at a rate twice the national average.
Year after year, in fact, Nebraska takes children from their homes at a rate higher than almost every other state in the country.
In a Local View column (“Examining out-of-home child welfare placement,” LJS, March 25) Coash explained that his request for the study stemmed from his personal involvement in the system.
For three years, he ran two emergency centers for children in Lincoln. He observed that once a child was put into the child welfare system, it was difficult to make an exit, and “every passing day” made it less likely that the child would be reunited with his or her family.
There’s no doubt that those involved in removing a child from his or her home thought they were doing the right thing by taking them from an environment where abuse and neglect allegedly occurred.
But, as Coash wrote, the consequences of putting them into the child welfare system also could be negative.
“I witnessed many children replace close family with peers who taught them inappropriate ways to fulfill their needs of belonging,” Coash wrote. “Picture this: a 12-year-old is in the shelter for having been abused by a parent and now is far from his family. He becomes friends with a local kid who is in the shelter for having stolen car stereos and running away from home. They become friends, and soon a kid who would never think of breaking the law is falling into peer pressure because he has no one to model good behavior.”
Coash is not the first to identify the issue. Reducing the removal rate supposedly was one of the goals of the botched attempt to privatize the child welfare system. And advocate Richard Wexler of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform has hammered away on the theme for years. In Nebraska, the Family Advocacy Movement headed by Melanie Williams-Smotherman works to help families stay together.
Coash has asked the Legislature’s executive board to designate the study as a joint project of the Judiciary and Health and Human Services committees. We hope the committees will give the study a high priority with adequate resources to investigate the issue and come up with substantive recommendations. So far a solution has proved to be elusive.