Legislative Oversight of Child Welfare Reform

On Friday, January 28, 2011, the Legislature’s Heath and Human Services (HHS) Committee held a hearing on LR 37, a legislative resolution that would designate the HHS Committee to review, investigate, and assess the state’s faltering reform of the child welfare system.

Nebraska Appleseed, Voices for Children, and many other partners held this press briefing in November 2010 calling for transparency, accountability, and oversight.

We believe this measure would bring much needed accountability, transparency, and oversight to the process.  For example, Appleseed and others have been calling for an independent evaluation to look at programmatic and fiscal components of the reform that both looks forward but that also assesses specifically what went wrong and went right over the course of the past year.  We therefore strongly support the provision in this resolution that would include a performance and fiscal audit.  We believe such an audit is necessary to be accountable both to the families in the system and the taxpayers in this state and also to prevent a continuation of the problems experienced to date.

We also strongly support provisions in this resolution that would involve consultation with system stakeholders, consider existing studies and reports, evaluate long-term goals and outcomes and the effectiveness of the public-private partnership model in this context, and that would require a final report on these initiatives by the end of the year.  We think all of these efforts are needed and worthwhile.

As the policy making branch of government, the Legislature has an important role to play in examining whether privatizing child welfare services as planned is right for Nebraska.  We hope the Committee not only to investigate and assess the reform but also to work to address these critical issues.  Several bills introduced this session would begin to do so and we are hopeful that some of these proposals will move forward.

Time is of the essence.  Children don’t have time to wait for us to finally create a system that meets the state’s obligation to protect their best interests.

Click here to read Appleseed’s full testimony on LR 37.

Click here to read an AP article on the hearing on LR 37.

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