Governor Heineman says he’ll stick with the move to privatize child welfare services, but has made changes to address criticism contained in a recent state audit.
Heineman says he’s reviewed the audit and has had several discussions with Health and Human Services CEO Kerry Winterer as well as service provider KVC. Heineman says the harshly critical audit hasn’t undermined his faith in privatization of child welfare services.
“No, it really doesn’t, because, again, what’s the option; to go back to the failed policies of what we’ve done for the last decades? I don’t think I want to go there,” Heineman tells Coby Mach on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN’s Drive Time Lincoln. “But, bottom line is, when you make a change you’ve got to make sure you get it done properly.”
Heineman says he has named Vicki Maca Families Matter administrator for the Eastern and Southeast Service Areas of Nebraska which includes the Omaha and Lincoln area and accounts for more than 70% of the children and families that HHS serves. The governor says he met with Winterer Maca and KVC officials to discuss how to improve how child welfare services are distributed.
The governor is also addressing another area of concern: the relationship between HHS and the Lancaster County Attorney’s Office. Heineman says the state is to blame for a poor relationship between the department and the attorney’s office. He says he’s met with Lancaster County Attorney Joe Kelly and has directed HHS and KVC to have more frequent contact with Kelly’s office.
A key criticism of the audit centered on a 27% increase in the cost of child welfare services since privatization has been implemented. Heineman blames the recession for most of the increase.
“Part of the reason, a major reason, the cost went up is because there’s an increased number of children and families who need services and they need more services. Part of that reflects our economic times,” according to Heineman.
The audit criticized the state Department of Health and Human Services for failing to have adequate documentation, failing to seek public bids for services and for failing to oversee contractors.