LAS VEGAS (KSNV) — Thom Reilly is in charge of higher education in Nevada. He’s been chancellor of the state’s system of higher education since August of 2017. In the eighties and early nineties, Reilly worked with child welfare and the lessons he learned then are the same lessons Nevada is learning today.
“Child welfare is a very complex challenging system. You work in a system where you balance preserving families but at the same time the need to protect children. Unfortunately, sometimes that cannot work out,” Reilly said.
Fifteen years ago Reilly did a study. He tracked kids as they aged out of foster care. Even with as difficult as it is to keep in touch, he did.
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“The transition piece is pretty sobering,” Reilly said. “What we did was met with young people face to face. They had to be out of the system for five years and then we tracked them down through a variety of different mechanisms. Were they involved in any way with the systems like prison?”
What they found were a shocking percentage of those kids who were once in the foster system now had substance abuse issues, mental health issues, or were incarcerated. There was a lack of help or services to address the trauma that came with being placed in the foster system.
“That was one of the major recommendations, we have to work with helping young people find job skills to be successful but also address those issues like the abuse that brought them in or sometimes the neglect of why did my parents leave me,” Reilly said.
He called his results sobering, so was his response to our next question.
“If you did that same study today, do you think you’d find the same?” We asked.
“Unfortunately,” he responded, “yes.”