The Office of Inspector General of Nebraska Child Welfare (OIG) is reporting 50 cases of sexual abuse of youth in state care over a roughly three year period.
The investigation, publicly announced in December 2016, was examining whether the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) was taking adequate steps to prevent and respond to sexual abuse.
“My office thoroughly reviewed hundreds of files and documents, conducted over 50 interviews, and made three site visits in the course of this investigation,” Julie L. Rogers, Inspector General of Nebraska Child Welfare, said in a statement announcing the findings. “Ultimately, we identified concerning deficiencies in the child welfare system’s ability to prevent and respond to the sexual abuse of children in its care.”
Among the OIG’s findings were:
- Some child sexual abuse allegations were not appropriately reported or screened for investigation. Some reports of child sexual abuse were never investigated. Others were poorly investigated or left incomplete for long periods of time, in some cases, up to a few years.
- The child welfare workforce was not consistently prepared to prevent or respond to sexual abuse of those in the system. This was in part due to high turnover and high workload, and in part due to a lack of training, protocol, and worker comfort confronting sexual abuse.
- Out of home placements – both foster homes and residential facilities – were not equipped to prevent sexual abuse. Oversight and standards for these placements need improvement.
“My office found cases where children who reported sexual abuse were ignored and dismissed. System professionals never took appropriate action in these situations,” Rogers said in the released statement, “Adults incorrectly assumed children were reporting sexual abuse as a form of misbehavior or ‘acting out’ by a troubled child. In some cases the OIG reviewed, the failure to take appropriate action subjected children to ongoing sexual abuse.”
Of the 50 children who were victims of substantiated sexual abuse, 27 were abused while they were state wards or placed in a residential facility licensed by DHHS. Twenty-three youth were sexually abused after exiting the child welfare system in the adoptive or guardian home in which the state placed them. All of the cases reviewed were reported to authorities from July 2013 to October 2016.
The report makes 18 recommendations to DHHS to address shortcomings uncovered during the investigation, of which DHHS has accepted 11 of the recommendations.
“My Office looks forward to hearing about DHHS’s implementation of the accepted recommendations in the coming months,” Rogers said. “I will also continue to monitor and voice concerns about the six recommendations that DHHS did not accept.”
You can read the full report HERE.