LJWorld.com weblogs Notes from John
No Safe Haven for Nebraska Teens Is Kansas next?
You may have read "No more teens: Neb. safe haven law to be changed" (LJWorld, 10/21/2008). Nebraska got caught by language that was too broad in its law to provide a safe haven for parents (usually young mothers) to abandon their infants at hospitals without being prosecuted for abuse or neglect. The language is going to be changed from 'child' to infants up to 3 days old. So don't think about driving to Lincoln and dropping off your difficult teen. In Kansas the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services in response to the request of Governor Sebelius (6/27/2008 news release) to reduce budgets by 1% - 2% is proposing to cut back on services to teens (http://www.srskansas.org/admin/Budget/SRS%20Budget.htm). One proposal is to no longer place youth 16 years of age and older into state custody except for maltreatment. They expect to save $3 million with this proposal. I like the idea. I think that child welfare foster care should be reserved for children who are victims of abuse or neglect who cannot be safely kept at home. I am concerned about how these families will get the help that they are looking for. These teens will still exhibit out-of-control behavior, truancy and running away that overwhelms parents. SRS proposes to add $254,998 to Family Services and $239,432 to Family Preservation to assist these families. Is it enough? Can $494,000 serve these teens as well in family preservation as $3 million did in foster care? I hope so. If it can, why didn't SRS do this a long time ago? Someone once told me that they thought that the usual community response to difficult teens was like the bubble under the rug. You try to smooth out the rug and the bubble simply moves someplace else. In this context this means that when child welfare tightens up and stops serving a group of kids they don't get better they simply move on to mental health or juvenile justice. Let's hope that this is not true this time.If this proposal is implemented, I call on the legislature to require SRS to report on the results for the children and families involved.