Gov: State will continue privatizing foster care
November 16th, 2010
Lincoln, NE – Gov. Dave Heineman said the state will continue privatizing the management of child welfare cases despite criticism that children are being lost in the shuffle.
Last week, child advocates urged the governor and the Department of Health and Human Services to slow down the privatization effort. That effort’s been going on for about a year, and Kathy Bigsby Moore of Voices for Children of Nebraska said it’s had its share of rocky moments. “We’ve now had three or four alarming announcements that have sent shockwaves through birth families, foster families and foster children,” she said.
Moore said of the six private agencies that originally signed contracts to coordinate child welfare services, four have dropped out. That’s led to situations, she said, which include the state not being sure where foster children were when one of the contractors went bankrupt, and foster parents going for weeks or months without being paid. But Heineman said things weren’t all that great before the reform started, either. “What we’ve been doing for the last 40 years hasn’t worked. Nebraska has one of the largest percentages of out-of-home placements of children and families of any state in America.”
Moore agreed with the goal of keeping more kids in their homes. But she said it looks like Nebraska is asking contractors to do more with less. She said whether its state workers or private contractors, providing more services more quickly, like drug and alcohol treatment for troubled parents would save money in the long run.
“Even if we had left this entire reform in the hands of the state,” she said, “we should have put more money into prevention and early intervention to reduce the out-of-home care population.” “Then ultimately, when you reduce the out-of-home care population that should have given you savings.”
Heineman said money is limited, and the state needs to spend it more efficiently. In the meantime, he said, Nebraska will continue privatizing case management services in those areas of the state where contractors have not dropped out.
“We’re going to slow down the process in central and western Nebraska. But in eastern and southeastern Nebraska we’re going to continue to move forward,” he said. “Both the entities are going to have to do an even better job in the future. We’re going to have to provide better oversight, and at the end of the day we know it’s about execution and implementation.”
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