A group of child welfare advocates claim budget cuts proposed by the governor will cost the state dearly in the long run.
Child welfare advocates say the proposed cuts will roll back progress Nebraska has made over the past few years.
Kim Hawekotte, Executive Director of the Nebraska Foster Care Review Office, says it makes no sense to hold the Department of Correctional Services off limits to budget cuts while cutting programs that could keep children from becoming criminals.
“If we’re going to talk about the correctional system, we also have to talk about the children and how we’re going to meet their needs,” Hawekotte tells reporters during a news conference at the Capitol.
State legislators must close a nearly $300 million budget gap as they draft the state budget for the next two fiscal years.
Gov. Pete Ricketts has proposed a number of budget cuts, mostly across the board, to deal with the sharp decline in state tax revenue. He has proposed no cuts to Corrections, though the legislature’s Appropriations Committee has proposed some of its own.
Advocates attending the news conference arranged by Nebraska Appleseed complain the proposed $15 million in budget cuts spread across the system would not just stop progress on a range of child welfare issues, but actually roll back some of the progress. They also criticize the proposal to shift foster care cases to the Department of Health and Human Services, which they say “lacks the resources and staff to adequately ensure the safety and stability of at-risk families.”
Sarah Helvey, Child Welfare Director with Nebraska Appleseed, says Nebraska has made great strides in the past few years in addressing long-standing problems.
“This is a turning point for our child welfare system,” according to Helvey. “By denying children and families the support they need, we would undo so much progress we’ve made over the last several years and lead to much greater fiscal and social costs.”
Jane Monnich, KLIN, contributed to this story.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]