Voices for Children is neutral on the proposal to return child welfare case management to the state. It doesn’t matter to a child who their caseworker works for and a change back would be yet another transfer their already unstable lives.
January 26, 2012
From: Carolyn D. Rooker, Executive DirectorTo: Members of the Health and Human Services Committee
Re: Neutral Testimony on LB 961 – Return Case Management to DHHS
All of Nebraska’s children deserve to grow up safe in loving, supportive families. Our child welfare system is supposed to function as a system of quality services and supports that make this possible for children. For many years and in spite of many reform initiatives, however, Nebraska’s child welfare has been struggling to provide what children and families need to stay safe and thrive. We appreciate the work of this committee over the interim to investigate and address the failings of our child welfare system.
Voices for Children in Nebraska was founded 25 years ago in large part due to frustration with the failure of our child welfare system. For all 25 years, Voices for Children in Nebraska has been committed to being independent and outspoken about what is best for children in this system. In crafting a position on LB 961, we asked ourselves what impact the bill would have on children in the child welfare system.
We support the inclusion of voluntary case plans because, as we continue to serve more children and families without court involvement, a national trend and best practice, we need clear case plans to ensure they’re getting the support they need. These case plans need to have oversight, accountability, and make improvements in service delivery on voluntary cases. Voluntary case plans will also help establish reasonable efforts in court cases which will expedite permanency for children if they become court-involved.
Voices for Children is concerned about the return to state-run case management at this time. States have tried a variety of approaches to ensuring their child welfare systems provide children with the safety, permanency, and well-being they deserve, with varying results. Whether states have privatized child welfare services or not, children and families need the same things: adequate and quality supports and services delivered at the right time. Both privatized and public systems have succeeded in some states. The chart below provides examples of outcomes in Georgia and Illinois, both of which have made significant improvements in recent years.
Georgia: (State Case Management) Illinois: (Some Privatized Case Management) Nebraska: (Some Privatized Case Management) National Average Child Deaths (per 100,000), 2008
Rate of Children in Out-of-Home Care (per 1000), 2009
Rate of Child Maltreatment (per 1000), 2009
Who does the work does not ultimately guarantee failure or success and whether their casework works for the state directly or for a private contractor does not matter to the child.
In the short term, it is clear that LB 961 will contribute to further instability and transition for children and families. The short amount of time to prepare for the state to resume case management and lack of specifics on how transition planning should occur will create confusion for children, families, and system stakeholders. Information is often lost in transition and can cause delays in getting children and families services and in expediting permanency.
We applaud LB961 as a great start in addressing caseloads, yet we have some concerns with the method of reduction. While having caseloads match national standards is a good thing, the approach the bill takes, 10% reduction per year, may cause even more transition as cases are moved each year to comply. For example, it could take a case manager with 30 cases over 5 years to meet national standards.
Voices for Children in Nebraska is committed to working with the committee to achieve the best possible outcomes for children in our child welfare system. We are willing to offer suggestions on how to minimize harm to children and families if case management returns to the state. We would also stress, however, that returning case management alone is not likely to solve any of the long-standing problems that have plagued our child welfare system.
We thank the committee for their work on this issue and we look forward to the discussions to come as we all work for what is best for Nebraska’s children. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns. We appreciate all you have done and continue to do on behalf of Nebraska’s children.