Saturday, December 24, 2005

Foster children the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services who become permanent wards of their foster parents are unable to get Medicaid and free college tuition on the State's dimeThe Nebraska Supreme Court ruled Friday Dec 23, 2005 that the foster children who wanted to become permanent wards of the guardians could not continue under a technical "custody" ofthe State. In re Interest of Antonio S. & Priscilla S., 270 Neb. 792 december 23, 2005. No. S-05-262 (J. Stephan) reported that wards of the state are eligible to receive college tuition and medicaid past reaching majority age, under the $40000 "former ward" program. Currently, 176 young people are eligible for the former ward program, which costs about $40,000 a year, said Jeanne Atkinson, a spokeswoman for the Nebraska Health and Human Services System. The program provides young people up to $352 per month, depending on their resources and assets, as long as they are attending a school, college or vocational or technical training school designed to prepare them for employment. former wards who end up in permanent guardianships are eligible for a less generous voucher and health insurance program. Justice Stephan states the purpose ofthe foster care system is to place children in permanent homes,and not have them indefinitely under state custody:
it is clear that the appointment of DHHS as guardian is intended as a temporary arrangement which, insofar as possible, will be replaced by a permanent resolution, such as returning the child to his or her biological parent(s), termination of parental rights and adoption, or a new guardianship... the acknowledged permanency goal was for the foster parents to become the guardians of Priscilla and Antonio. Generally, custody of a minor ward is an incident of guardianship. See 39 Am. Jur. 2d Guardian and Ward §§ 9 and 97 (1999).Although such a guardianship does not achieve a degree of permanency equivalent to parenthood or adoption, it creates greater rights than foster parenthood and "more closely approximates a natural parent-child relationship." In re Interest of Eric O. & Shane O., 9 Neb. App. 676, 693, 617 N.W.2d 824, 836 (2000)...where a guardianship is established under the Nebraska Juvenile Code as a means of providing permanency for adjudicated children who have been in the temporary custody of DHHS, custody is necessarily transferred from DHHS to the appointed guardian(s) by operation of law.

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