Statement on General File Debate on Child Welfare Bills

Nebraska State CapitolRebecca L. Gould, Executive Director of the Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest, issued the following statement today in response to the advancement of a package of five bills to reform the state’s child welfare system:

“Today and yesterday, the Nebraska Legislature voted to advance a package of five bills designed to stabilize and reform the state’s struggling child welfare system.  We commend the Health and Human Services Committee for it’s strong leadership in crafting these solutions and the Legislature for taking this meaningful and important step forward to improve the system.  These bills would put into place much needed oversight and accountability, would begin to address a number of long-standing issues, and would involve stakeholders and all three branches of government in charting a positive path forward to truly reform the system.

The provisions of LB 961 are particularly important.  We continue to firmly believe that case management is a core government function.  Therefore, we are pleased that the Legislative body voted today to advance LB 961, which would require case management to be provided by the state and prevents the reinstatement of lead agencies in the central, northern, and western service areas of the state.  We also strongly support the provisions of LB 961 that establish caseload standards to meet national best practices.

With regard to the pilot project being considered in the privatized eastern service area where the lead agency would retain case management responsibilities, we are concerned that the underlying financial and structural problems with the existing contract remain.  The eastern service area includes 43% of the entire state’s child welfare and juvenile justice system, meaning a significant percentage of children will remain in a privatized system that has been failing for over two years.  Child welfare services across the state should receive proportional funding and should have the same basic rules.  Therefore, if a pilot program is pursued, it is imperative that it is carefully crafted and at the very least includes clear financial parameters, specific performance goals, and a transparent evaluation process.

In today’s General File debate, the HHS Committee made clear their intentions to address these issues and we look forward to working with them as the process moves forward.

Under Senator Campbell’s leadership, these were two critically important and productive days outlining a vision for repairing our child welfare system in Nebraska.  We are grateful that the Legislature is working diligently to provide stability and ensure our resources are used in the most efficient and productive way to serve Nebraska children and families in the system.”

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