Voices for Children testified in support of LB 821, a bill which creates a Children’s Commission and a Department of Children’s Services. Here is our written testimony for the Health and Human Services Committee:
February 1, 2012
To: Members of the Health and Human Services Committee
From: Carolyn D. Rooker, MSW – Executive Director
Re: Support for LB 821 – Collaborative and Coordinated Services for Children
All of Nebraska’s children deserve the opportunity to grow into healthy, productive adults. It’s not always easy to be child in Nebraska, however: almost one in five Nebraska children live in poverty; the number of cases of child abuse and neglect has been rising since 2000; and 47,000 children had no health insurance in 2010. When children need services to keep them safe and healthy, our state has a responsibility to step in. For years, however, Nebraska has struggled to provide the services and supports children and families need to succeed. Our services for children are fragmented, lack coordination, and haven’t been given the attention they deserve.
Voices for Children in Nebraska supports LB 821 as an important opportunity for:
- Collaborative planning. The Committee’s LR 37 report correctly identified a lack of communication, buy-in, and cooperation between the three branches of government as one of the main challenges facing Nebraska’s recent privatization effort. The Children’s Commission outlined in LB 821 contains members of all three branches of government and provides for broad stakeholder involvement going forward. Reducing the number of children in out-of-home care and providing a clear, adequately funded plan going forward will require the collaboration and cooperation of all those who can impact the child welfare system.
- A complete, coordinated system of care for vulnerable children.A lack of coordination and difficulty accessing services often causes problems for children and families to go unaddressed until intrusive interventions are the only option remaining. LB 821 also authorizes the Children’s Commission to plan for a Department of Children’s Services which will coordinate all children’s services for the state. By focusing a single department on these vulnerable children, Nebraska will have an opportunity to build a full continuum of developmentally appropriate and evidence-based services for children.
- Maximizing state resources for children and increasing efficiency. When children and families get the right services at the right time, Nebraska can decrease its usage of expensive and intrusive care. Ultimately, the Children’s Commission and Department of Children’s Services can ensure we maximize available resources for children and use them in the most effective and efficient way possible.
The Children’s Commission and the Department of Children’s Services present an important opportunity for Nebraska to identify challenges and make improvements that contribute to real, lasting, and comprehensive reform of not just our traditional child welfare system, but all those services which provide for children and families who need supports and services to succeed. With the proper leadership and specific attention to how a new Department of Children’s Services will coordinate with economic assistance programs that impact children, LB 821 provides a strong base for reforming and improving how we serve and plan to serve children in Nebraska.
We urge you to advance LB 821. Thank you.
 Kids Count in Nebraska: 2011 Report. Voices for Children in Nebraska.