By: Sabrina Ahmed
Nebraska is at the highest point in a decade for child poverty, and the welfare of at–risk children is on the line.
The numbers are shocking and officials who released them say something has to be done to help needy children, because they can't help themselves.
"Just one foot in front of the other, you just gotta keep going," Jaquita Baren said, a 29–year–old mother of three.
She said, sometimes, she wonders how she'll get food on the table for the next meal.
"Even though I've always kept a job and worked really hard, sometimes even two and three jobs, I've never been financially stable on my own," Barens said.
Her family's not alone. Nearly one if five kids in our state lives in poverty. But Barens' kids are lucky. They have a mother who is fighting for them, something a lot of Nebraska kids don't have.
In the Kids Count in Nebraska Report released by Voices for Children in Nebraska, they reported that every day, 14 kids experience some sort of maltreatment. That's the highest point in a decade.
Because of that, twice as many kids are taken out of their Nebraska homes and put into the system than the national average. But Voices for Children said that might not always be the best solution.
"So we really need to look at this data and figure out what we can do to first strengthen families to prevent abuse and neglect from ever happening," Baren said.
If taking a child out of the home is the only answer, they say the system that gets kids another place to stay needs to improve. If the kids get back with their parents, there needs to be government help to keep them there, safe, and happy.
As for barens, who grew up in foster homes, she's trying to break the cycle of poverty with her children.
"If I'm stressing about it or if it's a situation that I know I might not have a 100 percent handle on it, if I don't know how our next meal is going to come, I try not to make that obvious to my children so that they don;'t have to carry that burden on their shoulders," Barens said.
A few bills have already been introduced this session to help children in poverty, and there are more to come.
Voices for Children said this report is meant to be a tool for legislators to enact laws that will improve the lives of kids.