Weekly Column

Aug 22 2022

Supporting Kids

By U.S. Senator Deb Fischer

**There is no audio of this week’s column** 

I often say one of Nebraska’s most precious resources is our children. They represent the next generation of great entrepreneurs, family farmers, doctors, police officers – you name it – that make our state the incredible place that it is. For this, they deserve our full support and care.

This is especially true for foster kids, who unfortunately face significant hardships. It’s estimated on any given day, there are 3,000 children in foster care in Nebraska alone. In many circumstances, children entering the foster care system lack essential supplies, such as clothes, food, or other personal necessities.

Thankfully, there are a host of incredible on-the-ground organizations – known as foster care stabilization agencies – that work diligently to support our youth and address these acute challenges. The agencies are non-profits, including community and faith-based organizations, that are committed to dramatically improving children’s initial experiences in foster care. 

Working with incredible organizations like Nebraska Foster Care Closet, I’m proud to have recently introduced legislation that would improve pre-placement services and ensure the needs of kids are better met.

The Foster Care Stabilization Act would do so by authorizing $3 million in Department of Health & Human Services demonstration grants for agencies that could be used to hire personnel, secureclothing or personal necessities for foster youth, and purchase food and food preparation equipment. The funding can also go towards child abuse services or other emergency assistance programs. 

Another way to ensure children receive the care and educational support they deserve is through investing in a more robust child care system. 

Across the country, many communities do not have a sufficient number of child care providers to meet current demand. This is true in Nebraska – particularly our more rural areas. According to the Nebraska Association for the Education of Young Children, 11 counties in our state do not have any licensed child care providers. This is due to a variety of factors, including staffing shortages and excessive regulations. The lack of available providers means the cost of child care is often prohibitively high for many working families.

The Child Care and Development Block Grant Reauthorization Act, a bipartisan bill that I recently cosponsored, would help to tackle some of these challenges. 

The bill has a number of important components. First, it would authorize a roughly $4 billion increase in funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program – a historic federal initiative that helps to lower the cost of child care for working families. In addition to increasing the affordability of child care, the bill would also increase families’ eligibility to utilize the program.

Second, the bill would create a new program specifically tailored to increase the supply and overall capacity of child care providers. Ensuring there are an adequate number of facilities will not only help to keep children healthy and safe, but also ensure families aren’t held back from pursuing career opportunities. 

Finally, the bill makes a number of technical changes to modernize the CCDBG program and cut red tape. Many of these adjustments will particularly focus on supporting rural communities. 

Supporting the next generation of Nebraskans is a smart investment. We’ll continue to work to get these critical pieces of legislation passed into law so our state’s children have the support they deserve.  

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.

Word Count: 542