Nebraska would more than double its contribution to seven Child Advocacy Centers across the state under a bill advancing in the legislature.
Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha sponsors LB 993, which would expand the services provided by the advocacy centers, update language regulating them and increase their funding by slightly more than $800,000.
Ashford says the advocacy centers serve just under half the 16,000 abused and neglected children who enter the state system each year.
“Remember these are kids that have already come into the hotline. These are kids that have already been identified as abused and neglected children,” according to Ashford.
The state now contributes about $700,000 to fund the advocacy centers. Ashford’s bill would more than double that, increasing the state contribution to $1.5 million annually. The advocacy centers also raised private contributions to fund their work. Ashford says the centers can use the extra state money to leverage more private funds.
Speaker Mike Flood announced early on Monday that he has reserved Tuesday and Wednesday as legislative days to debate child welfare issues.
Ashford’s bill began the discussion of an issue considered one of the top issues of the session in wake of the highly publicized problems within Nebraska’s child welfare system. Ashford says its overdue.
“I can’t think of any more important debate that we have than how do we address the needs of these highly at-risk children,” Ashford says.