Just in time for the holidays, the Health and Human Services Committee delivered over 400 pages of research, reports, and recommendations relating to child welfare to stakeholders and advocates on December 15th. We’ve spent the past few days at Voices for Children in Nebraska digging into the report and seeing just what child advocates got under our tree this year. Here are a few highlights from what we’ve found:
- Data, data, data! If you have any questions about child welfare privatization – its costs, its impact on services, what key groups think of it, the number of children served by lead contractors, case worker turnover, or almost anything else – look no further. The LR 37 report is packed full of information that paints a picture of what’s been happening. It provides a good base of information to look at as the Legislature and advocates debate reforms in the coming months.
- A brand new Nebraska Department of Children’s Services! From our perspective, the most important and exciting of the recommendations contained in the LR 37 report has to do with creating a new department that can provide a streamlined, appropriate system of care for children in our state. The new department would contain child welfare programs, the Office of Juvenile Services (OJS), children’s behavioral health, children’s developmental disabilities, Kids Connection (Medicaid/health insurance), and children’s public health. The agency CEO would be appointed by the Governor. Going forward, the creation of this new Department could have a huge and positive impact on our state’s children.
- Trouble with Timelines? The only thing that gives us pause seem to be the challenges with implementing some recommendations within the timelines the LR 37 report suggests. One thing we don’t want is more instability for kids and families. If case management is turned back to the state by July 1, 2012 only to be transferred to a new agency within the next year, with ongoing changes being made by a Children’s Commission and preparations to apply for a IV-E waiver underway, isn’t it possible kids could get lost in the shuffle. We need big child welfare reform here in Nebraska, but we have to remember to put kids first. We need a clear plan of where we’re going and the services to make it happen before we do anything else that could cause instability.
So what do you think? Did the report contain everything on your child welfare wish list? What’s next for Nebraska? We’re anxious to hear your thoughts and suggestions as we get ready to roll up our sleeves in the New Year and improve our child welfare system. It’s likely to be the number one issue according to more than a few Senators.