February 8, 2012
To: Members of the Health and Human Services Committee
From: Sarah Forrest, Policy Coordinator – Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice
Re: Support for LB 949 – Performance Based Budgeting and Fiscal Transparency for Child Welfare Programs
Fiscal transparency and accountability are integral parts of a well-functioning child welfare system. For many years, Nebraska has lacked information about how limited dollars in our child welfare, juvenile justice, and other public benefits programs are spent. Without this key information system stakeholders and legislators have not been able to direct dollars where they will have the most impact or link dollars spent with outcomes for children and families. Voices for Children in Nebraska supports LB 949 as an important step in putting Nebraska’s child welfare system on sound footing for reform going forward.
The LR 37 report clearly highlighted both the lack of fiscal transparency and its consequences: more dollars have been spent without legislative input and without significant improvements for children and families. Monitoring changes in or transfers of dollars, requiring a strategic plan for and reporting on budget requests for the next biennium, and a separate child welfare budget item will allow policymakers and DHHS to use dollars more effectively. Sound fiscal decisions, based on good information, can help Nebraska advance true child welfare reform: reducing the number of children in out-of-home care by helping children safely thrive and grow in their own homes whenever possible.
LB 949 is an important component of the LR 37 recommendations put forward by this Committee. We appreciate your recognition that fiscal transparency and performance based budgeting are important policy tools that can be used to improve services for children and families and advance comprehensive reform. Do not hesitate to contact us with any questions.
Thank you for your dedication to improving child welfare in Nebraska. We urge to advance LB 949 as an integral part of reform.