OTHER VOICES: Nebraska must stop seizing Social Security benefits for children in care | Notice


The Nebraska State Capitol in Lincoln is shown.

Grant Schulte, Associated Press


The protection of private property is one of the oldest principles of the US government. The founders of our nation placed multiple guarantees concerning it in the Federal Constitution. Consider the Fifth Amendment. No American, he said, will be “deprived of his life, liberty or property without due legal process; and private property will not be taken for public use without fair compensation. The Nebraska Constitution contains a similar provision.

Supreme Court rulings defending private property rights, with rare exceptions such as eminent domain, constitute one of the oldest sets of US court precedents. The tribunal has been making such decisions since the 1790s.

The message to government officials is clear and firm: respect people’s property. It is up to them, not the government.

This principle should also apply to people’s money. With the obvious exception of taxation, the government has no right to seize people’s financial assets.

And yet state governments, including that of Nebraska, are doing just that when it comes to foster children. The state government of Nebraska diverts about $ 2.7 million per year in Social Security benefits for foster children to help cover the state’s child welfare costs.

At least 36 states engage in such selfish behavior, according to a report from the nonprofit Marshall Project and NPR. And at least 10 states, including Nebraska, are hiring for-profit companies to comb Social Security records to find suitable foster children. Nationally, around 10% of people in foster care are entitled to such benefits.


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