Author: Sarah Helvey

RELEASE: Nebraska Appleseed files lawsuit seeking stability for Nebraska’s child welfare system

***For Immediate Release*** Tuesday, September 3, 2019 Contact: Magdalena Cazarez Communications Director Office: (402) 438-8853 Ext 119 Cell: (402) 504-0074   Nebraska Appleseed files lawsuit seeking stability for Nebraska’s child welfare system Suit says current private contracts violate Nebraska’s Constitution   LINCOLN – Today, Nebraska Appleseed filed a lawsuit in Lancaster County District Court on behalf of a child… Read more →

RELEASE: Appleseed Sends Demand Letter Seeking Stability for Nebraska’s Child Welfare System

***For Immediate Release*** Monday, August 26, 2019 Contact: Magdalena Cazarez Communications Director Office: (402) 438-8853 Ext 119 Cell: (402) 504-0074 Nebraska Appleseed Seeks Stability for Nebraska’s Child Welfare System The current private contracts violate Nebraska’s Constitution   LINCOLN – Today, Nebraska Appleseed sent a demand letter to officials at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, the Nebraska… Read more →

STATEMENT: Child welfare contract creates concerns for Nebraska families

***For Immediate Release*** Monday, July 8, 2019 Contact: Magdalena Cazarez Communications Director Office: (402) 438-8853 Ext 119 Cell: (402) 504-0074 The new child welfare contract creates challenges and concerns for Nebraska Nebraska’s child welfare system should ensure stability for children and families   LINCOLN – Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services finalized the child welfare contract… Read more →

Safer families and a healthier future for Nebraska children

This coming year, Appleseed will continue our fight to strengthen and improve Nebraska’s child welfare system at both the Legislature and through the courts. But one of the biggest priorities in 2019 is to make sure we take advantage of a golden opportunity presented by a new federal law that could improve the prospects of safe, united families and better… Read more →

Take Action – Stop cuts to Nebraska’s child welfare system

We’re asking you to Take Action today to stop possible cuts that would weaken the child welfare system. The Nebraska Legislature’s Appropriations Committee is working on their final budget recommendations and may cut funding for programs that have been important for helping Nebraska’s children find permanency and stability in loving homes. Please call or email State Senators on the Appropriations… Read more →

Help pass this important Child Welfare bill in Congress

Research shows the best outcomes for children come when you can keep them together with their parents in their own home. That’s not always possible, but we must make every effort to avoid removing children from their homes – and that includes helping parents during difficult times. An important new bill coming up soon in the U.S. Senate would strengthen… Read more →

RELEASE – Policy change means more former foster youth eligible for health coverage

***For Immediate Release*** March 13, 2015   Contact, Sarah Helvey Child Welfare Director, Nebraska Appleseed Office: (402) 438-8853 Mobile: (402) 850-6885 State Clarifies Medicaid Eligibility for Former Foster Youth in Independent Living Approximately 1,000 additional young people now eligible for health coverage   LINCOLN — This week, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services officially changed a previous… Read more →

LB 853 would help young Nebraskans have best chance at success

During the 2013 Legislative session, state senators passed LB 216, a landmark piece of legislation to help remove barriers to health and success for young people who age out of Nebraska’s foster care system.  The bill created a voluntary system of services and support for these young people, now known as the Bridge to Independence program. After last year’s session,… Read more →

One step closer to Bridge to Independence for youth aging out of foster care

With 2014 just around the bend, we are closer than ever to local implementation of a program that has had child welfare advocates buzzing for years.  This program, recently titled Bridge to Independence by members of Project Everlast, will voluntarily extend services and support to age 21 for youth aging out of foster care.  This program was created by the… Read more →

Federal child welfare news

While Nebraska Appleseed continues to work with state lawmakers and local stakeholders to improve our state’s child welfare system, we also have been following several efforts to address child welfare issues at the federal level. Last week, I attended a gathering of policy advocates in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities… Read more →

Affordable Care Act provides health care coverage opportunities for youth with foster care experience

There has been a lot of talk and excitement recently about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which will be fully implemented starting January 1, 2014.  While the ACA goes a long way in providing Nebraskans with access to affordable and comprehensive coverage, there are a few lesser-known provisions.  In particular, youth who age out of foster care will be eligible… Read more →

Appleseed CWT takes on D.C. for national children’s conference

Last Thursday, Nebraska Appleseed’s Child Welfare Team (AKA Sarah, Robbie, and Amy) took to the skies and headed to Washington, D.C., for the American Bar Association’s 15th Bi-Annual National Conference on Children and the Law.  The two-day conference focused on emerging policy and systemic reform related to child welfare and offered workshops in the areas of education, disproportionality, kinship care,… Read more →

Reviewing “The Fosters” – Playing by the (unwritten) rules

As mentioned in our last blog, this week’s premier of the new ABC Family television show “The Fosters” covered a diverse range of topics, including same-sex parenting, multi-ethnic family dynamics, unreported foster home abuse, placement/school instability, the strength of sibling relationships, and an unhealthy meeting with a biological parent.  Basically everything but the kitchen sink. As I sat curled up… Read more →

One Step Closer to a Bright Future

Groups of young Nebraskans waiting in the Capitol lobby to speak with senators has become a regular occurrence this legislative session when LB 216, the bill to extend voluntary services and support to age 21 for young people who age out of foster care, is a topic of discussion. Tuesday was no different, with members and staff of Project Everlast… Read more →

Success Beyond 18 launches to give young people a better path to success

Monday, young people with experience in foster care teamed up with legislators and child welfare experts from across the country to head to Washington D.C., and help launch Success Beyond 18, a national campaign of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative to create a better path for young people transitioning from foster care to adulthood. Speakers included Gary Stangler, Executive… Read more →

Every Young Person Deserves the Chance to Boomerang

Young adults returning to their parents’ home after living on their own is a pretty common occurrence nowadays.  This back-and-forth movement has particularly increased in recent years – so much so that it’s spurred a new generational nickname: “The Boomerang Kids.” Although I would certainly no longer call myself a “kid,” I am not ashamed to identify as one of… Read more →

Young People ask State Senators to Extend Voluntary Services and Support to 21

On January 31, young people from Project Everlast joined Senator Amanda McGill and other advocates to speak out in support of LB 216 – the Young Adult Voluntary Services and Support Act. LB 216, introduced by Senator McGill, would remove barriers facing young people who age out of foster care by extending voluntary services and support to the age of… Read more →

Aid to Dependent Children rate must be raised to strengthen our families

Effectively addressing poverty is not only fundamental to the well-being of children and families in our community, it is also one of the keys to preventing the unnecessary entry of children into the foster care system. That is why Appleseed is proud to support LB 508, a bill introduced by Senator Kathy Campbell that would incrementally increase the Aid to… Read more →

A Successful Ascent to Adulthood

Nebraska is a state where we take care of our kids and want them to have a real opportunity to be productive, healthy, and engaged members of our community as adults. To that end, Appleseed took to the Capitol on Thursday with members of Project Everlast and other partners to advocate for LB 216 – the Young Adult Voluntary Services… Read more →

Nebraska’s Children’s Commission Releases Strategic Plan for Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Reform

Late last week, the Nebraska Children’s Commission, created by LB 821, released its Phase I Strategic Plan for Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Reform.  The Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee of the Legislature will likely rely heavily on this strategic plan as they continue to work on improving Nebraska’s foster care system this coming Legislative Session. In their report, members of… Read more →

Appleseed 2012 Year in Review – Child Welfare

This is part of a series looking back on Nebraska Appleseed’s work in 2012. Repairing Nebraska’s Broken Child Welfare System In 2012, Nebraska Appleseed responded to the crisis condition of Nebraska’s child welfare system. During the 2012 Legislative session, Appleseed worked with state senators and partners to support a package of five bills designed to stabilize and reform Nebraska’s struggling child welfare… Read more →

Homeless After Foster Care: Young, Vulnerable, and On Their Own

On a chilly night in January 2012, the Metro Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless’ (MAACH) Youth Task Force conducted short interviews with 267 young people who were experiencing homelessness.  More than three-quarters were 18 or younger.  A total of 35 percent had dependent children; 54 percent had not yet graduated from high school. More than half had been… Read more →

Appleseed testifies for Nebraska to offer additional support for youth after foster care

As the Nebraska Legislature moves forward with reform of our broken child welfare system, much focus has rightly been on the “front door” of the system. One group that hasn’t been talked about as much are the young people who age out the “back door” of the system and how they fare as they make this transition. Today, Nebraska Appleseed’s… Read more →

The Power of a Voice – Sen. McGill thanks youth for sharing their perspectives on the foster care system

“Your voice does matter to state senators, and your voice CAN make a difference.” These powerful words were spoken by Senator Amanda McGill in her modernized version of a thank you card to the more than 100 youth who participated in statewide focus groups and/or responded to surveys about an extended services and support to 21 program this summer. Such… Read more →

Child Welfare Forum brings national experts to Lincoln

Last Thursday, six national child welfare experts met with nearly 100 local stakeholders for a Child Welfare Forum focusing on evidence-based practice in prevention and early intervention. After testifying at the Legislature interim study in the morning, the team of experts provided information in an afternoon session on best practices and what is working across the country. Attendees also met… Read more →

Appleseed Testifies at Interim Study Hearing on Poverty and Child Welfare

On Thursday morning, Nebraska Appleseed participated in an interim study, LR529, on the “front door” or entries to Nebraska’s child welfare system. Appleseed’s Executive Director, Becky Gould, testified about the role anti-poverty programs can play in supporting families and preventing children from ending up in the child welfare system. “We believe that effectively addressing poverty is not only fundamental to… Read more →

Child Welfare Forum brings national experts to work with Nebraska stakeholders

Where: The Cornhusker Hotel (Lancaster 123 Room), 333 S. 13th St., Lincoln When: Thursday, September 14, 1:00-4:00 p.m. National child welfare experts will join more than 100 local stakeholders on Thursday for a Child Welfare Forum at The Cornhusker Hotel from 1:00-4:00 p.m. in an event designed to provide information and generate discussion around evidence-based best practices for the state’s… Read more →

Join Us for a Child Welfare Forum Sept 13, 2012

Please JOIN US for a child welfare forum on evidence-based practice related to prevention and early intervention! DATE: Thursday, September 13th TIME: 1:00-4:00 p.m. LOCATION: The Cornhusker Hotel, The Lancaster 123 Room, 333 S. 13th St., Lincoln, NE RSVP: online at or to Cynthia Davis at The forum will be structured in three parts: an overview presentation to the… Read more →

Nebraska ICWA Coalition to be honored with Appleseed’s “Seeds of Justice” Award

Over the next few weeks we will be telling you about this year’s recipients of our Good Apple Awards, which will be honored at the Good Apple Awards on October 4, 2012 in Omaha. This year, we are proud to present our Seeds of Justice Award for outstanding legal contributions to public interest law to the Nebraska Indian Child Welfare… Read more →

A Summer of Youth Focus Groups

You may remember past blogs about an exciting new program that would extend services and support for youth who age out of foster care to the age of 21.  These services and supports would include, among other things, Medicaid coverage, housing assistance, and youth-directed case management. State Senator Amanda McGill introduced LB 1150 in January of this year, which would… Read more →

The Importance of a Manageable Caseload

Recently, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) issued a news release announcing a change in caseload standards in response to the passage of LB 961.  As our readers may know, five bills targeting Nebraska’s foster care system were passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor this session.  Among other things, LB 961 returned child welfare… Read more →

The Day is Here: Challenging Restrictive Behavioral Health Policies

All Nebraska children should have the support they need to be healthy and productive as they grow up. Early behavioral health services are proven to be most effective for children, save money, and are required by Medicaid under federal law. On Friday, Nebraska Appleseed, with our partners at the National Health Law Program (NHeLP), filed a class action lawsuit against… Read more →

How the System Fails Youth, Part 5: Missouri’s Extended Foster Care Program

Ashley is a walking example of how extending foster care services could positively impact youth in care. Ashley aged out of Missouri’s foster care system when she was 21, so she can talk explicitly about “…the difference between aging out at 19 and aging out at 21.” Ashley was able to receive all the support she needed while she attended… Read more →

How the System Fails Youth, Part 2: Former Ward Denied Services on a Technicality

Every day this week, we will provide a in-depth look into the needs of youth in foster care. Oscar describes himself as the “average teenager.”  He is 19 years old and takes college courses at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.  However, Oscar has faced numerous challenges in his life.  He was placed in the foster care system when he… Read more →

Extending Foster Care to 21: Next Steps

In October 2010, the Fostering Connections Act made federal funding available to assist states in extending foster care services to youth until age 21.  At least 12 states have taken advantage of this unique opportunity to date, and many more are continuing to express interest.  Senator Amanda McGill introduced LB 1150 this legislative session in an effort to add Nebraska… Read more →

Political Rhetoric Obscures Rational Dialogue on the Affordable Care Act and Its Benefits for Children

Originally posted by our friends at The Juvenile Law Center The historic legal arguments for and against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) have concluded. The future of the ACA now rests in the hands of the United States Supreme Court. Tragically, the legal and political wrangling over the Act’s provisions has largely obscured the desperately needed benefits… Read more →

Youth Share Their Experiences and Perspectives with Senators

During last week’s first round of debate on the package of child welfare bills, Lincoln Senator Bill Avery noticed the apparent absence of the usual lobbyists in the State Capitol’s rotunda.  As noted by Senator Avery, there “are no highly paid lobbyists working on behalf of kids.”  While Nebraska Appleseed, Voices for Children, and some other child advocates were present,… Read more →

Statement on General File Debate on Child Welfare Bills

Rebecca 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… Read more →

Panel Responds to Youths’ Questions about Child Welfare System Privatization

Last Wednesday, Child Welfare Director Sarah Helvey spoke at a Reform Roundtable event sponsored by Project Everlast.  About 35 youth with foster care experience attended to eat pizza, learn about privatization, and get answers from a panel of representatives from DHHS, KVC, NFC, Nebraska Appleseed, and Voices for Children.  Questions ranged from how a Title IV-E waiver would work to… Read more →

Strengthen Transparency, Accountability and Oversight of Nebraska’s Child Welfare System

We support LB 1160 because it would establish much needed oversight of what is really happening to children and families in the child welfare system. We fully support that the data collected as part of LB 1160 is targeted to provide accountability in individual cases but also seeks to use the information for ongoing systemic monitoring and improvement. Importantly, LB… Read more →

Address Fiscal Oversight Problems in Nebraska’s Child Welfare System

LB 949 would create a separate budget program for appropriations of funds for child welfare in Nebraska. LB 949 would also require regular financial reporting by the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services to the Legislature’s HHS and Appropriations Committees. We also strongly support that LB 949 would require that the Department’s appropriations request process include a strategic plan… Read more →

Ensure Foster Parents Receive the Resources to Meet Children’s Basic Needs

LB 926 ensures that foster parents in Nebraska will be provided with the resources necessary to meet children’s basic needs.  We thank Sen. Dubas and the other co-sponsors for their commitment to improving the child welfare system and ask that you vote to advance LB 926. [DDET LB 926 Testimony] Senator Kathy Campbell Chair, Health and Human Services Committee Room… Read more →

An Opportunity for Investment in the Futures of Youth in Foster Care

Yesterday, the HHS Committee held a hearing on LB 1150, a bill, introduced by Senator McGill with input from Project Everlast youth members, that would extend foster care services on a voluntary basis up to age 21 in Nebraska. For years, adolescents aging out of foster care have struggled with the transition into adulthood. Typical 19-year-olds are able to turn… Read more →

Appleseed Supports the Creation of a Children’s Commission

[DDET LB 821 Testimony] Senator Kathy Campbell Chair, Health and Human Services Committee Room 1402, State Capitol Lincoln, NE 68509 Chairwoman Campbell and members of the Health and Human Services Committee, On behalf of the Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest, I am here to testify in support of LB 821. We support LB 821 because it… Read more →

Testimony supporting LB957 to Adopt the Office of Inspector General for the Nebraska Child Welfare Act

Senator Kathy Campbell Chair, Health and Human Services Committee Room 1402, State Capitol Lincoln, NE 68509 Chairwoman Campbell and members of the Health and Human Services Committee, On behalf of the Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest, I am here to testify in support of LB 957. We support LB 957 because we believe ongoing oversight and… Read more →

Return Foster Care Case Management to the State

Sarah Helvey, Child Welfare Director at Nebraska Appleseed, testified last Thursday at the Unicameral’s Health & Human Services Committee in support of LB961. The bill would return foster care case management to the State of Nebraska.  Case management is a core government responsibility. While there is a role for private-public partnerships, and for private agencies to provide certain services, the… Read more →

Statement on KVC Contract Amendment & Additional $1.8 MILLION Infusion

Yesterday, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services announced that it entered into another contract amendment with KVC on December 24th to infuse an additional $1.8 million into the state’s failing child welfare privatization effort even as the the Legislature’s HHS Committee had just the week before released recommendations to make significant changes to the system, implement oversight, and… Read more →

The Session of Children

Today the Unicameral convenes the first day of the second session of the 102nd Legislature.  As the session begins, media reports have quoted a number of state lawmakers as saying that child welfare will be a top priority for this session. Here are some of today’s headlines: “As session begins, child welfare a priority” – Lincoln Journal Star “Child welfare,… Read more →

Gains Seen on Child Welfare Reform

Last month, the Nebraska Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee released its Legislative Resolution 37 report and 18 recommendations that we believe chart a positive new path forward for child welfare reform. In response to the report, a Dec. 18 World-Herald editorial, “State must get this right,” rightly noted that needed fixes to the state’s child welfare system should include… Read more →

Legislature’s HHS Committee Releases LR 37 Report and Recommendations on Child Welfare

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… Read more →

Supreme Court Reinforces Juvenile Court’s Authority to Enforce Orders when HHS Fails to Comply

On Friday, the Nebraska Supreme Court issued a decision that strengthens the authority of juvenile courts in Nebraska to hold HHS in contempt when the Department willfully fails to comply with orders designed to serve the best interests of children.  The case involved an order by the Cheyenne County Court, sitting as a juvenile court, requiring HHS to place a… Read more →

Enough Is Enough

Last week, the State Auditor released a report on the child welfare privatization, which detailed, among other things, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services’ gross mismanagement and lack of oversight of valuable taxpayer dollars intended for the state’s most vulnerable children.  Appleseed is deeply troubled by the severity of the information in the Auditor’s report.  So much so,… Read more →

Kids Can’t Wait

Recently, state officials and national experts have commented that privatization can take a number of years to see results.  But, as Appleseed and other advocates have said – and this cartoon in Tuesday’s Omaha World Herald points out: children in the system don’t have years to wait. Over the past year and a half since privatization was initiated, the reform… Read more →

Additional Child Welfare Funding and Restructuring Raises Additional Questions

On Friday, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services announced that the state will be providing an additional $5.5 million in the current fiscal year ending June 30, 2011 and an additional $7.4 million in the next fiscal year starting July 1, 2011 to the state’s faltering child welfare privatization effort.  Also on Friday, KVC, one of the remaining… Read more →

Nebraska Supreme Court Declines Opportunity to Strengthen Rights of Siblings in Foster Care

On Friday, the Nebraska Supreme Court issued a decision that, unfortunately, limits who can raise the issue of a child’s right to grow up with their siblings when a child has been removed from their home due to abuse or neglect. The decision, which dismissed an appeal of siblings challenging a juvenile court’s denial of a motion to change placement,… Read more →

State Fostering Connections Bill Passes Legislature!

On Thursday, the Nebraska Legislature passed LB 177 on a vote of 47-0-2.  LB 177 places key provisions of the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (“Fostering Connections Act”) into state statute.  Specifically, LB 177 provides increased oversight and strengthens local implementation of provisions to prioritize placement of foster children with their siblings when appropriate, to provide… Read more →

Moratorium Agreement Reached in Child Welfare Reform, But Oversight Legislation Delayed

Yesterday, following a letter from the Governor agreeing to hold off on contracting with a new lead agency to provide child welfare services in the rural areas of the state until June 2012, the Legislature voted to delay consideration of LB 95.  (As a reminder, LB 95 would have placed the moratorium the Governor promised into statute and also would… Read more →

Welcome Robbie McEwen!

A “welcome” probably isn’t completely accurate, since the Child Welfare System Accountability Program’s newest Staff Attorney has been with Appleseed for the past year and a half and has even blogged here.  Nonetheless, Appleseed welcomes Robbie McEwen!  Actually, “Staff Attorney” isn’t completely accurate yet either, since Robbie is currently completing his third and final year of law school and will… Read more →

State Fostering Connections Bill Advances

Yesterday, the Legislature voted 40-0 to give first round approval to LB 177, a bill that would place key provisions of the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act into state statute.  This bill would strengthen the enforcement and local implementation of requirements to prioritize placement of children in foster care with their siblings when that is not… Read more →

Enforcing Court Orders in the Best Interests of Children

Yesterday, the Nebraska Supreme Court heard arguments in an appeal of a juvenile court’s order holding HHS in contempt for failure to provide counseling services as ordered for a child in an out-of-home placement. In this case, HHS also questioned the authority of juvenile courts to hold HHS responsible for payments by HHS’s lead contractor under the child welfare privatization… Read more →

Proposed Legislative Moratorium on Child Welfare Privatization

On Tuesday, the HHS Committee voted 7-0 to advance LB 95, a bill to require accreditation of lead contractors, with an amendment calling for a moratorium on returning to privatization in the central, northern and western service areas of the state until June 2012.  Essentially, this would prevent the state from contracting with a new agency to replace Boys &… Read more →

Voices for Children’s Kids Count Report Illuminates Children’s Behavioral Health Needs

Last week, Voices for Children in Nebraska released their 2010 Kids Count in Nebraska report.  This valuable report tracks the status of children in Nebraska using the best available data across several key indicators including educational, social, economic and physical well-being. This year’s Kids Count report includes a special feature on Children’s Behavioral Health in Nebraska. The report estimates that… Read more →

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… Read more →

Injection of Funds into Faltering Child Welfare Privatization Raises Questions

Yesterday, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced, on the first day of the legislative session which is largely overshadowed by the projected budget deficit, that they “found” $19 million to inject into the state’s faltering child welfare reform effort.  Nebraska Appleseed has said from the beginning that the reform is underfunded and that an investment of… Read more →

Appleseed & Hundreds of Advocates Urge Real Evaluation, Transparency & Oversight in Child Welfare

On Wednesday, Nebraska Appleseed and some of our partners organized a press briefing and roundtable discussion of child advocates regarding the current reform of the child welfare system. We also released a letter signed by over 800 individuals and organizations calling on the Governor and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to slow down the process of… Read more →

“Next steps” in Child Welfare Reform – But Is This the Right Direction?

On Friday afternoon, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced its next steps in the child welfare reform in a press release. These next steps include transferring additional case management responsibilities from the state to the remaining private agencies.  This has and will mean layoffs of a number of state caseworkers.  Yet nowhere in the press release… Read more →

Loss of Third Child Welfare Lead Agency Demands State Reconsider Reform

On September 30th, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that Boys and Girls Home and HHS have mutually agreed to terminate their contract with the state as one of three remaining lead agencies in the child welfare reform. Boys and Girls Home had the contract for the entire central, northern and western service areas of the… Read more →

Gaps in Children’s Behavioral Health System on Collision Course with Fragile Child Welfare Reform

On September 22, the Legislature’s Children’s Behavioral Health Oversight Committee held a hearing and listened to testimony from parents of children with unmet behavioral health needs. The stories were heartbreaking. Many told of the support they received from peer mentors. However, several of the family organizations that provide this service testified that they may have to close their doors due… Read more →

Appleseed’s Summer Law Clerk Program

Each summer, Nebraska Appleseed’s law clerk program attracts some of the best and brightest public interest minded law students from Nebraska and across the country.  This summer was no exception.  We were fortunate to have eight students: three from the University of Nebraska College of Law, three from Creighton University Law School, one from the University of Iowa College of… Read more →

Foster Care Double Standard

There seems to be a troubling double standard in the Nebraska foster care system that has come to light in a new way in recent weeks as contracts with two of the five private agencies have been terminated due to funding problems. One standard is that parents in the system are often faulted for having unstable employment or inadequate housing,… Read more →

Child Welfare Privatization Crisis

Since our last post on the child welfare privatization following the announcement that CEDARS Youth Services terminated its contract with HHS, there has been more bad news. The state’s contract with a second agency, Visinet, was terminated two weeks ago and Visinet subsequently filed bankruptcy. Then, last Thursday night, Visinet closed its doors after they were unable to work out… Read more →

Underfunded Child Welfare Contracts Put Kids and Agencies at Risk

On 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.… Read more →

Safe Haven Revisited

It has been about a year since Nebraska’s original safe haven law went into effect and 36 children, most of them teenagers, were dropped off at local hospitals before the Legislature went into special session to restrict the law to infants up to 30 days old. This spring, lawmakers took a first step in addressing some of the broader issues… Read more →

A Tall Order for Foster Care Reform

One of my first blog posts this summer focused on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ release of its most recent federal review of Nebraska’s foster care system.  As a result of the state’s failure to pass the federal review, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (NDHHS) is required to develop and implement a program improvement… Read more →

Child Death Case Underscores Need for Transparency and Accurate Investigations

The recent death of a 12 year old boy in Omaha, allegedly at the hands of his mother, who had called HHS seeking information about placing him in foster care, has raised questions about the state’s investigation of child abuse reports.  Not only had the boy’s mother called HHS, but family members reported that they repeatedly contacted HHS expressing concerns… Read more →

Lessons from a Young Lawyer

It has been five years since I was sworn into my first bar in the state of Wisconsin.  In fact, just the other day, I received information in the mail from my law school about our upcoming class reunion.  The ABA’s Young Lawyers Division defines a “young lawyer” as a lawyer under the age of 36 years old or admitted… Read more →

Appleseed Helps Secure Two Child Welfare Victories at the Nebraska Supreme Court

On Friday, the Nebraska Supreme Court issued precedent-setting decisions in two cases in which Appleseed was involved.  In the first case, In re Interest of Angelica L. and Daniel L., the Nebraska Supreme Court determined that the state acted improperly by terminating the rights of a Guatemalan mother to her two children on the basis that the mother was not… Read more →

“Aging Out” of Foster Care

Statistics on the long-term outcomes for former foster children are, unfortunately, bleak.  While some youth “beat the odds”, far more struggle compared to their peers on measures related to educational attainment, employment, poverty, homelessness, health care, early pregnancy, and involvement in the criminal justice system. However, recently enacted federal legislation, the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, provides… Read more →


At Nebraska Appleseed, we have a tendency to develop long, drawn-out, flowery titles for our work that don’t lend themselves very well to catchy acronyms. Most Appleseeders credit our founding director, Milo Mumgaard, for this tradition, though it has out-lived even Milo’s tenure. For example, the “Child Welfare System Accountability Program” or the “CWSAP” is Appleseed-speak for our work around… Read more →

Federal Review of Nebraska’s Child Welfare System: Round Two

This spring, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released its most recent federal review of Nebraska’s foster care system. Nebraska’s foster care system was previously reviewed in 2002 and, while none of the 50 states were in full compliance with federal standards at that time, Nebraska was ranked among the worst-performing states. Nebraska made some positive gains in… Read more →

Continue to Shine a Spotlight on Children’s Behavioral Health Needs

Last fall, 36 children, most of them teenagers and pre-teens, were dropped off under Nebraska’s broad safe haven law.  In November, the Nebraska Legislature went into special session and limited the law to infants up to 30 days old.  However, the crisis that was exposed by the safe haven law – the older children in our community with unmet behavioral… Read more →