Two private contractors who provide child welfare services for the state say the main recommendation made by a legislative committee would be a step backward.
Nebraska Families Collaborative Executive Director David Newell shies away from directly criticism the recommendations from the Health and Human Resources Committee.
“The reality is the Nebraska system has been broken for 20 years. No, we haven’t fixed it in two years and we’re not going to,” Newell tells reporters at the Capitol. “But, we’re going in the right direction and we just need to work together and I think this report is a very good first start.”
A 425-page report released when the Health and Human Services Committee met Thursday afternoon; a report neither Newell nor KVC President Sandra Gasca-Gonzalez received prior to the meeting. Both say they will pour over the 18 recommendations made by the committee.
It is the top recommendation that neither likes. The committee recommends that case management be returned to the state. Newell says that would be a step backward.
The committee also recommends the creation of a Children’s Commission to devise a strategy for handling the neglected and abused children under the state’s care and the establishment of a Department of Children’s Services. The committee would like to see the state create an Inspector General of Nebraska Child Welfare as a watchdog over expenditures.
Gasca-Gonzalez expresses hope that the state will consult with the two contractors before making changes, because they know the children involved.
“So, when you’re talking about Johnnie, Joseph or Julie, we know the details of that and our voice really needs to be heard,” says Gasca-Gonzalez. “And we’re concerned about our information being shared and working together with those branches of government to make sure whatever is decided is done in a responsible way.”
KVC is the largest provider of services, serving 4,700 children in 19 counties, including the cities of Lincoln and Omaha. Nebraska Families Collaborative serves 2,000 children in Douglas and Sarpy Counties. They are the only private contractors left. Of the five chosen by the Heineman Administration, three have quit providing services.