FIJ Quarterly - Summer 2022 Edition

transfer programs which provide a monthly stipend without strings attached, have been shown in pilot programs to reduce child abuse and neglect by enabling families to better access resources and address their own basic needs. 35 Providing youth and families the freedom to use assistance funds the way they need, without required family regulation or policing, is a critical cultural shift from a system that has been heavy-handed with oversight of funds. These concrete financial supports will not take away the systemic disparities that black and brown families have faced but can help to challenge the narrative about who is deserving of assistance. 36 Narrow the Definition of Neglect and Clarify that Poverty Is Not Neglect Nebraska’s definition of neglect permits bias and inconsistencies in reports, investigations, and prosecutions, particularly for black and brown families. 37 A bill proposed in the Nebraska Legislature during its 2022 session, among other things, would have clarified the neglect statute to require the parent to have “willfully refuse[d] to provide such care despite being able to do so,” to be charged with neglect. 38 The Nebraska bill did not pass this year, but this clarification - and tighter definitions of neglect in states across the country—would reduce the number of families who needlessly enter the family regulation system and who could benefit from community-based services and interventions. End Childhood Poverty Bryan Stevenson, in his book, Just Mercy, wrote, “The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice.” 39 According to the 2020 census, 16 percent of all children in the United States are living in poverty. 40 This figure is on the increase and not surprisingly includes vast disproportionality for children of color. 41 In order to address this injustice—and consequently reduce the number of kids in foster care—we must do what we know works: prioritize investments in ending childhood poverty. This includes extending the Child Tax Credit, directing more TANF funds to direct cash assistance to families rather than to subsidize foster care, and more broadly putting resources directly into people’s hands through basic income programs, higher wages, and better jobs with benefits. Eliminate Universal Mandatory Reporting and End the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act Requirement for Mandatory Reporting of Neglect Universal mandatory reporting states, like Nebraska, that require all individuals, regardless of profession, to report suspected child maltreatment should consider amending their statutes. 42 Such a change would still permit all individuals to report if they have concerns but would not require them ______________ 35 Weiner, Dana, Anderson, Clare, Thomas, Krista. “System Transformation to Support Child and Family Well-Being: The Central Role of Economic and Concrete Supports.” Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago , July 2021, p. 4-6. https:// Accessed 1 May 2022. 36 Coates, Ta-Nehisi, “The Case for Reparations.” The Atlantic . 21 May 2014; Downey, Nolan, et al. “Guaranteed Income: States Lead the Way in Reimagining the Social Safety Net.” Shriver Center on Poverty Law , Apr. 2022, p. 27. https://www. Accessed 1 May 2022. 37 Black and African American children made up 6 percent of Nebraska’s total child population but were represented at 14.9 percent in the child welfare system in 2019. Native and Indigenous children made up 1.1% of the total child population in Nebraska but represented 4.8 percent of the child welfare population in 2019. Voices for Children in Nebraska. Kids Count in Nebraska 2019 . 2020, p. 71. Reports%3A-,Kids%20Count%202019,-%7C%20Kids%20Count%202018. Accessed 1 May 2022. https://voicesforchildren. com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/2020-Kids-Count-electronic-final-3-26-2.pdf. Accessed 4 May 2022. 38 Nebraska Legislative Bill 1000 (2022); proposing to alter Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-247. 39 Stevenson, Bryan. Just Mercy . Spiegel & Grau, 2015, p. 11. 40 Shrider, Emily A., Kollar, Melissa, Chen, Frances, and Semega, Jessica. “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2020.” U.S. Census Bureau . 14 Sept. 2021, p. 16. Accessed 1 May 2022. 41 Annie E. Casey Foundation. New Child Poverty Data Illustrate the Powerful Impact of America’s Safety Net Programs . 20 Sept. 2021. net-programs. Accessed 1 May 2022. 42 Helvey, Sarah, Summers, Juliet, and Conway, Sean. “Universal Mandatory Reporting of Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect in Nebraska: Current Law and Future Considerations.” The Nebraska Lawyer . July/August 2020, p. 13-14. https://cdn.ymaws. com/ 1 May2022.

114 | FIJ Quarterly | Summer 2022

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