Underfunded Child Welfare Contracts Put Kids and Agencies at Risk

CEDARSOn Friday, CEDARS Youth Services announced that it is terminating its contract with HHS to provide out-of-home services as part of the state’s privatization of foster care. In a statement to the Lincoln Journal Star, CEDARS president and CEO Jim Blue cited financial reasons and indicated that projections showed the agency would lose $5.5 million next year under the contract. This news confirms long standing concerns that the resources provided through the contracts are inadequate to enable providers to meet the needs of children and families in the system. We hope the state will use this opportunity to reevaluate the current reform plan. Otherwise, we fear that local agencies and, most importantly, the safety and well-being of Nebraska children and families are and will continue to be at risk.

Here is a statement we released on Friday:

Rebecca L. Gould, Executive Director of the Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest issued the following statement today in response to CEDARS Youth Services terminating its state child welfare contract:

“Today, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that CEDARS Youth Services is terminating its contract with the state as one of five lead agencies in the Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Reform Contract. CEDARS determined that the contract was not financially feasible and that the cost to provide the services required by the contract was higher than anticipated and exceeded the amount funded by HHS.

We are gravely concerned that the state is asking our local social services agencies to do the impossible, provide better outcomes for children with inadequate resources. This not only puts local social services agencies in jeopardy but most importantly risks the safety and well-being of thousands of children in Nebraska’s child welfare system.

This news confirms the worst fears of Appleseed and many advocates and comes at an already vulnerable time for children in the system. As the out-of-home reform process has begun over the past few months, there has been a great deal of concern about inadequate resources and confusion among families, providers, attorneys, and other stakeholder as to the responsibilities of the state and agencies to provide services and supervision of cases.

Ultimately, the state is the legal custodian of children who are wards of the state. As such, the state is legally obligated to ensure that appropriate services, oversight, and resources are provided to children in care.

We hope the state will use this opportunity to reevaluate the viability of this reform as it is currently structured. Nebraska Appleseed has long supported comprehensive reform of the foster care system. However, in order to be successful, reform must set forth details and clearly delineate responsibilities, it must protect the safety of children and the rights of families, it must provide proper oversight, and, importantly, it requires the commitment of resources in the right places. Unfortunately, at this time, these issues are not adequately addressed by the reform plan.”

  2 Replies to “Underfunded Child Welfare Contracts Put Kids and Agencies at Risk”

  1. 04/07/2010 at 9:19 pm

    I work with the reform first hand and it is completely unrealistic and carelessly thought out. The state of Nebraska has not effectivly done their jobs with children and family services for many years. This reform has been a way to place the blame on others. Prior to the reform CFS sent over referrals for services to service providers and left it at that. The concerns of 70% of children being placed out of home, along with how much money has been being spent, was looked at second. Now that lead agencies have the hand on the financial aspect, we fight back against over serving the families we serve only to be fought back by CFS stuck in their old ways. The cost of employees was not considered in the reform and that is why in my opinion that Cedars had had enough. Where do the agencies get the funds to pay employees if we are still over serving families and CFS are still reluctant to place children back in the home?

  2. T in Omaha
    04/15/2010 at 6:46 pm

    This reform was not very well thought out….I think it looked good on paper and sounded good to talk about, but when the rubber really met the road and service coordinators started actually working with families, it was evident that the expectations were too high. This system has been broken for a long time and it will take a long time to fix it. The only “reform” I see is that they moved the stress of the busy work from the CFS workers onto the service coordinators….

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