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Legislature Leaves Child Welfare Policy Changes for Another Day

Following the release of a letter from Governor Heineman, promising to put off further childwelfare privatization until June 2012, legislators voted today to delay consideration of LB 95 until January2012. LB 95 would have put the same moratorium the Governor promised into statute, in addition to requiringlead child welfare contractors to be accredited. Instead the Legislature will await the results of their childwelfare investigation, LR 37, before enacting policy changes aimed at improving the reform effort.

Voices for Children in Nebraska is glad the Legislature, Governor, and DHHS have taken steps to insure thatprivatization “slows down,” while Nebraska looks at what went wrong and how it can be fixed. They should beapplauded for their leadership, their efforts to increase transparency, and their commitment to fixing thesystem to best assure child safety, permanency, and well‐being.  Nonetheless, Voices for Children isdisappointed the Legislature is leaving all child welfare policy changes and debate for next year, especiallysince two of Nebraska’s five service areas are already served by private lead agencies.

Since the beginning of child welfare contracts in November 2009, three of five contractors ended theircommitments due to financial problems. These financial struggles have impacted subcontractors, many ofwhom are still owed money, and their ability to provide quality services.  Ultimately, these financial strugglesimpact foster parents and the very children the system is designed to serve.  In other states that haveprivatized child welfare services and case management, legislatures have enacted policies to insure thatpublic‐private partnerships are stable and provide quality child welfare services.

“The state is already well aware that financial issues and a lack of transparency have jeopardized child welfarereform efforts,” said Carolyn Rooker, Executive Director of Voices for Children in Nebraska. “The child welfaresystem often unintentionally harms the very children it seeks to help. LB 95 could have been a vehicle forsimple policy changes that would help provide Nebraska’s children with stable and quality services.  Whilereform is a gradual process, a year is still a long time to wait for kids in our system. We’re looking forward tothe improvements made after the LR 37 process is finished, but disappointed changes that could really helpour kids now will have to wait.”

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