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CEDARS emergency shelter feeling affects of foster home shortage

CEDARS of Lincoln reached out to 10/11 NOW to share how their emergency shelter is having to turn away more and more kids as demand for help continues to rise.
Published: May. 27, 2022 at 4:42 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) -Earlier this month, 10/11 NOW brought you the story of a growing number of foster kids in Nebraska, especially teens, having nowhere to go. Needing a stable home environment.

Since then, CEDARS of Lincoln reached out to 10/11 NOW to share how their emergency shelter is having to turn away more and more kids as demand for help continues to rise. CEDARS is a non-profit that finds foster homes. They also offer the only emergency shelter for kids in southeast Lincoln, and it’s a resource that’s being pushed to the brink.

For 20 kids from across southeast Nebraska, the shelter at CEDARS is home.

“We love the kids we have here, but an emergency shelter is not a place where kids should have to be,” Allyson Rickertson, program manager for the emergency sehlter said.

The emergency shelter houses kids 12 and up who have nowhere else to go, waiting to either go back home safely or for a foster home to open up.

Demands for these rooms is growing. Referrals to CEDARS have risen 53% since 2016.

“We receive about 120 referrals every month for kids who need a safe place to stay, a safe place,” Jim Blue, president of CEDARS said.

Some of those kids go to foster homes, others who are older go to independent living. However many they can fit go into the shelter. But the rooms don’t stay empty for long.

“We have to turn away about 75 kids a month because we don’t have enough foster homes,” Blue said. “In April we had to turn away 104 kids. We just have to hope and pray there’s room open in the shelter.”

The Department of Health and Human Services said through the pandemic needs rose, and there’s not enough foster homes. CEDARS said that’s specifically true for teens. There are 1,100 teens in Nebraska waiting for permanent placements.

“It’s really hard to sit with kids while they feel hopeless and they feel rejected when they know there isn’t a home that’s going to be open for them,” Rickertson said. “That’s really devastating. The need is so great and the resources aren’t there.”

CEDARS said they’re working to recruit more foster parents and will keep housing as many kids as possible in the shelter, providing them as normal of an experience as possible until they get to give them the news they’re all waiting to hear.

“When you get a kid who gets to go to a home, that changes the trajectory of their life,” Rickertson said. “They know they’re wanted and they’re valued and they get to have the same, normal teenage experience every kid wants and deserves.”

Data from the Child Care Review Office shows foster kids who have more stable placements, in homes or family settings, are more likely to do well in school, make friends and connections, and less likely to run away or go missing, which is an ongoing problem for teens in foster care.

If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a foster parent, click here. You can also get more information on the DHHS website.

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