Child welfare takes center stage in the legislature the next two days.
Eager to begin debate, some senators started a day early. During debate on a bill on Child Advocacy Centers, a few senators decried the state of the child welfare system in Nebraska.
Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha on Monday called privatization a miserable, unmitigated failure.
“It has not delivered what we thought or what was expected and we have spent tens of millions of dollars on it,” Lathrop told colleagues during legislative floor debate.
Lathrop pointed out that the state spent $105 million delivering child welfare services on abused and neglected children in 2008/2009. That expenditure jumped to $139 million in 2010, with $30.5 million spent on amended contracts with private agencies.
Sen. Gwen Howard of Omaha struck the same theme during debate. She reminded colleagues private contractors assured the state they could deliver services for the same amount of money the state spent.
“But the ink was barely, barely dry when the private agencies came back and said, ‘You know what, we really can’t do it for this amount of money,’” Howard stated.
The privatization effort has come under intense scrutiny this year. A state audit slammed the Department of Health and Human Services for inadequate cost controls and poor record keeping. The audit reported spending on child welfare services rose by 27% over a two-year period. The Legislative Performance Audit Committee added to the criticism and then, the legislative Health and Human Services Committee issued a 400-page plus report with 18 recommendations contained in bills that will be decided by the legislature.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]
AUDIO: Legislative debate on child welfare system [24 min.]