A conservative Nebraska-based think tank argues that Nebraska needs to improve, not abandon, its moves to privatize child welfare services.
The Platte Institute, which in 2009 criticized the state for removing too many children from homes, has released a study that urges the legislature to improve the current system, not end it.
It brought Lisa Snell, director of the Education and Child Welfare Program at Reason Foundation, to the Capitol to make its case. Snell, who is president of the board of the California Virtual Academy in Los Angeles, authors the Platte Institute policy study on Nebraska child welfare services.
In the study, Snell makes the case that Nebraska should not abandon its investment in Families Matter. She says several states have encountered similar difficulties in making the transition, including Florida and Kansas which are now held up as role models for privatization.
Snell says cost got out of hand in Nebraska, because the state did not have accurate data on the cost of child welfare services and had not calculated the cost of additional services it required of its contractors. She faults the contractors for failing to do their due diligence as well.
The legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee has issued a 400-plus page study that outlines 18 recommendations. Snell agrees with many of the recommendations issued by the committee, arguing that it should scrap suggestions to take back case management and create new departments and divisions, urging instead for the state to work with its contractors.
“They should start from where they’re at now and what they’ve learned and invite those partners in to do all of those recommendations that immediately will impact kids,” according to Snell.
Snell says one of the problems states have is failing to focus on what they want from the child welfare system, which includes the foster care system. She says social workers rarely understand what is expected of them. Snell says the legislature needs to settle on the top five outcomes it wants from the system and create a culture that produces those results.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]
AUDIO: Platte Institute news conference on privatization of child welfare system [10:40]