State wants to shorten wait time for abused foster kids placed out-of-state

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State wants to shorten wait time for abused foster kids placed out-of-state

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Tom Ventura

Nevada is one of six states chosen for a national pilot program that will speed up the process for transferring abused and neglected children from foster care to a safe home across state lines. Right now, that transition takes about 60 days and state officials hope to cut that time in half.

Even if a child is living in an unsafe environment, their home is all they know, so they often don't want to leave.

"The best thing that we can do when they have to leave is place them with a relative," says Jill Marano, deputy administrator for the state's Division of Child and Family Services. "And it's an extremely traumatic process. It's very hard on children to be told, 'Grab your clothes; grab one or two of your favorite toys; you're going to have to go live somewhere else for a little while or maybe forever.'"

Last year, Marano's office sent nearly 1,500 children out-of-state to live with extended family members. These transfers can involve a mountain of paperwork completed by a wide range of involved parties including judges and court-appointed advocates, among others.

Currently, much of that documentation is done on hard paper and it's faxed or emailed to a web of contacts across Nevada and other states.

Marano says this out-dated, inefficient process means traumatized kids are waiting in foster homes instead of getting to their forever homes and reuniting with family.

"A lot of times, particularly in Nevada because we have such a transient state, relatives live in other states," she explains. "We can't place [the children] with family members, though, without doing background checks and home studies and making sure the child is being sent to a safe place elsewhere. So, this will really make that process much quicker."

The American Public Human Services Association is helping Nevada and a handful of other states develop a web portal where all paperwork can be completed online and every involved party will have access to entire case files.

The long-term goal is to set up this system for the participating states and then expand it to other states.