The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services is working on improving the child welfare system after a report on sexual abuse of children in the state’s care.
The Division of Children and Family Services provided data to the inspector general on the investigation of sexual abuse and gave feedback on a draft report, according to Division director Matt Wallen.
He says improvements started before the report’s release, and his office is focused on workforce issues.
“One of the recommendations by the inspector general’s report was to staff at the recommended case levels and that’s what we’re working towards,” Wallen tells Nebraska Radio Network. “We’re not quite there yet. We’re better at meeting that required caseload standard in some of our service areas, and some of the services areas are not as well at doing that.”
Wallen says getting a replacement case worker up to speed after one leaves can take up to two years of training.
The inspector general’s investigation of a three year period found 50 cases of sexual abuse of children in the state’s care.
Some abuse occurred in state licensed or operated facilities, but many happened in foster care or adoptive homes.
Wallen says the screening process for those placements are already rigorous.
“When we look at some of these cases, we’re constantly saying did we miss something, did we make sure we made all the right checks, did the home study check out, were there factors or external components that maybe weren’t identified in those home studies or some of those background or criminal history checks that could have maybe prevented some of these things,” Wallen explains.
The inspector general’s report states the division accepted 11 of 18 recommendations for improvements.
“[Those include] processes training and how we can work better with system partners to make sure some of these, when they’re referred to child advocacy centers or law enforcement,” Wallen says. “That we continue to close the loop and continue to stay in contact with our system partners to make sure these are fully being investigated.”
He says some recommendations mirror policies already in place, but need to be put into practice more consistently.
AUDIO: Mike Loizzo reports [:44]