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New DHHS Business Plan Neglects Safety Concerns

This week, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) released the agency’s business plan for 2018-2019. While we are pleased with several elements of the plan including working to improve maternal-child health and implement a system of care, Voices for Children is gravely concerned about the ongoing disregard for evidence-based strategies to address youth and community safety at the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center (YRTC) at Kearney.

The single goal for improvements at the YRTC-Kearney is to build a fence around the facility. This would represent a substantial step backward for a facility that has seen improvements in recent years. A fence might keep in the 21 youth who attempted to abscond in the previous fiscal year, but would simultaneously make this “treatment center” more prison-like for all the youth committed there, and is contrary to recognized best practice around the country and steps that have been taken to ensure that our juvenile justice system is truly rehabilitative. Increased staff, reduced youth population, and improved mental health and individualized treatment programming would have a more meaningful effect for more youth at a substantially lower cost. Other states are closing similar facilities entirely.

During the 2017 legislative session, the Department of Health and Human Services testified in opposition to a bill that would limit the use of solitary confinement of youth in juvenile facilities, including the YRTCs. The agency submitted a fiscal note claiming that bill would cost approximately $4 million because the elimination of solitary confinement would require building a fence around each facility. It is unclear from the business plan where this amount of money would be found within the existing agency budget, and there is no evidence that the expenditure would result in better outcomes for the youth or communities.  All of our communities are ultimately safer if we are able to effectively rehabilitate youth who come into contact with our justice system and a fence does not contribute to that goal.

“Every stage of our juvenile justice system should operate in a way that is developmentally responsive and aimed at rehabilitation. Putting up a million dollar fence around an outdated youth prison facility is a poor investment in the future of our youth and the communities they will return to,” said Juliet Summers, Policy Coordinator for Voices for Children.

Comment(1)

  1. REPLY
    Dr Melissa F Alvarado says

    We, as a country, have completely failed our most vulnerable children. To read that money is used to” update” what is already the incarceration of kids by updating the prison security as a “business plan?” I hope I am missing a component of DHHS’s business plan, as it stands, their business plan is the plan to incarcerate children for state income. Why are we not rising up to demand the state stop trafficking the population of children living in poverty, with state’s own statics revealing this targeted population is the least likely to graduate high school with all other quality of life indicators with the most hardship. The state will continue this abusive practice which generates DHHS’s future income in their business model. DHHS does not use federal grants to assist the parents whose is poverty is translated as a habitat the fault of parents as intentional abuse and neglect. Poverty is not abuse. The general public incorrectly believes the millions the state receives to allegedly end and neglect by using these funds to assist the parents found guilty of the DHHS definition of abuse and neglect when it is unintentional poverty. Nebraska uses millions of this funding on the foster parents for a financial incentive increasing their own yearly income and business plan. Parents with children seized by the state as wards are told it is their responsibility to show their finances cover the cost to support their children while also taking their Social Security and child support to pay the state back for “services” that are aimed to “rehabilitate” these parents. “Services” “rehabilitate” these parents are in reality completely nonexistent. Foster parents are protected under Nebraska statue when biological parents are not. Wow. Great business plan Nebraska…and shame on everyone simply sitting back in apathy rather than demanding the corrupt practice of state income generation on the backs of America’s children somehow disguised as a worthwhile plan to spend more each and every year. Nebraska’s published statics are used to determine if Nebraska’s ability to manage their own business plan. This statics factually establish the rate of abuse of children in out of home care is many times worse than biological parents. These children are facing a 1 in 3 chance of being raped, sodomized, beaten while being totally ignored nor typically reported for a child’s inherent right to be free of the worst atrocities imagined that go ignored. I am ashamed and outraged that America pays DHHS for those service of abuse of the worst kind in the guise of money to end abuse and neglect of Children. Congratulation Nebraska DHHS.

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