I want to give a hearty shout-out to The Missus for helping to launch a new "Safe Families" initiative in Lincoln this past weekend. It's a joint effort of many groups and individuals, including Lincoln Berean Church, Christian Heritage, Nebraska HHS, KVC, and others. So what is it?
In short, it's an attempt to prevent kids from making their way into the foster care system. Struggling bio families can voluntarily relinquish their children to host families who act similarly to foster families. Since it is voluntary, the relationship between bio family and host family is far more collaborative than in a traditional foster care scenario. Simultaneously, a parent mentor works with the bio family to help them get their issues -- whatever they may be -- straightened out. For example, if a bio parent has a drug problem, the mentor would help ensure the parent goes to rehab and takes appropriate parenting classes. The goal is to get the family back on their feet without having to burden the child welfare system.
The whole system is a win for everyone. Bio families don't get dragged through the nastiness of the child welfare system. The child welfare system can focus its resources on more serious cases, leaving "edge" cases alone and therefore saving money. The support organizations get to do what they do well, and do so with more autonomy and creativity than is possible within the child welfare system. And there's plenty of accountability for everyone thanks to plenty of training, contracts, and so on.
The Missus has been working hard on this stuff for a long time. It's fantastic to see the effort finally launch. And best of all, there's a tremendous amount of momentum from a wide variety of stakeholders. Unlike the disaster that was Governor Heineman's effort at "child welfare reform", this push may actually help kids and families. I'm very excited to see how this all matures over the next few years.