Nebraska lawmakers pass bill that ends privatization of child welfare

Published: Apr. 13, 2022 at 5:38 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The fight to end the privatization of Nebraska’s child welfare system is one step closer to becoming a reality.

It comes after a rocky relationship between the state and St. Francis Ministries, a private organization that oversaw the caseload for children in the foster care system in eastern Nebraska.

“I think the really big thing that LB 1173 did was end the privatization of Nebraska’s child welfare case management services. What the bill says is that the department cannot continue to privatize that case management service in the future,” said Allison Derr, Nebraska Appleseed child welfare attorney.

Experts with Nebraska Appleseed say the change stems from over a decade of private organizations running case management files for children in eastern Nebraska.

Last year workers from St. Francis Ministries protested over high caseloads.

Then in December, the contract was terminated after an inspector general report found St. Francis wasn’t properly managing kids’ cases.

“It takes away the threat of it happening again. Youth know and families know their cases will be managed by the state. There’s not a risk of someone else like st. Francis coming in and underbidding or underfunding their contract and having these risks go on in the future” said Derr.

The new bill goes beyond just ending privatization. It adds more protection for children.

And behavioral and mental healthcare services will meet the kids directly in their homes.

A change experts say is crucial.

“What we are seeing right now is if a youth has mental or behavioral needs that are too great for a traditional foster home, the solution is typically to go right to congregate care or inpatient setting. So we have a lot of youth being in settings that are more restrictive than they need,” said Derr.

To help better the system, the bill will also require a three-year evaluation of Nebraska’s foster care system.

The bill also includes more protection for kids receiving social security benefits.

It’s now headed to Governor Ricketts’ desk.

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