Yesterday, the HHS Committee of the Legislature released its report as part of LR 37, an interim study investigation of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) child welfare reform and privatization. Among the 18 recommendations were the following:
- Return case management to the state by July 1, 2012
- Create the Nebraska Department of Children’s Services
- Create the Children’s Commission to oversee child welfare in Nebraska
- Increase financial monitoring
- Create the position of Inspector General of Nebraska child welfare
- Do not reinstate the lead agency model in central, western, or northern service areas
- Do not extend current contracts
- Direct DHHS to apply for a IV-E waiver demonstration
- Require a standard minimum base rate for foster care payments
Nebraska Appleseed is pleased that the Legislature has conducted such a thorough investigation of the child welfare reform. The LR 37 report puts the state in a strong position to move forward in the upcoming legislative session to address core issues and wide-ranging problems in the system. In addition, the report represents an important recognition by policymakers of the need to take a big picture and collaborative approach and to implement clear policy goals and critically needed oversight and accountability of Nebraska’s child welfare system.
A fundamental flaw in the reform effort undertaken by DHHS from the beginning has been a lack of assessment and evaluation and the absence of a clear plan. We are pleased that the Legislature has taken leadership in this important process and applaud the HHS Committee for their efforts as part of the LR 37 process in the past several months. The LR 37 process has been one of the most extensive and inclusive legislative studies in recent memory and has included opportunities for input from a range of stakeholders.
After witnessing a series of crises, an eroding service infrastructure, a significant increase in child welfare spending with little to no improvements in outcomes and too many children and families struggling in a dysfunctional system, we now have an opportunity as a state to create a system that truly meets the needs of children and families.