Top DHHS official resigns


September 16th, 2011

Lincoln, NE – Late Friday, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services announced that Todd Reckling was resigning. Reckling has been the director of the Division of Children and Family Services since April, 2009. That division is in charge of the privatization of child welfare, and Reckling’s resignation comes on the heels of a scathing report by State Auditor Mike Foley alleging mismanagement of funds, lack of documentation and a refusal to cooperate with the audit process.

Todd Reckling has headed the Division of Children and Family Services since 2009. (Photo credit DHHS)

However, a spokesperson for DHHS told NET News that Reckling was not pressured by Gov. Dave Heinemann or DHHS CEO Kerry Winterer to resign; instead, the spokesperson said, Reckling is resigning for personal health reasons. The spokesperson said the department will begin searching for a replacement immediately.

State Sen. Jeremy Nordquist from Omaha has been a vocal critic of the reform process. He told NET News that Todd Reckling has been a great advocate for children in state, and said the department will be losing someone with a lot of expertise.

Sen. Nordquist said he trusts the state’s claim that Reckling’s resignation has nothing to do with the privatization problems, but adds that they won’t go away with one person.

“The responsibility for accountability goes beyond Director Reckling,” he said. “Really, it goes up to Winterer and Gov. Heinemann.”

The child welfare reform process has been plagued by setbacks since private contractors first took over in 2009. Thursday, Gov. Heinemann responded to the auditor’s report, saying, he expects better results and expects them soon.

Gov. Heineman, Reckling and Winterer were unavailable for comment.

One Response

  1. Beverly Tran says:

    It is such an insult that the State Department of Health and Human Services would actually believe that its people are so gullible to believe that the aberrant management of its funds had nothing to do with privatization.

    Privatization can be fiscally responsible.

    Privatization of foster care and adoption services should be embraced with joy. This is what we all have been awaiting.

    Privatizing foster care and adoption services releases the constraints of enforcement within the executive branch. The Attorney General is now able to flick the switch of the oversight machine and provide accountability for the state and its families. This is what is to happen:

    The responsibility of contract monitoring and compliance is transferred from DHHS back into the hands of the Attorney General. For example, families whose children have been removed where privatized agencies do not believe in family reunification, can now file complaints with the Attorney General regarding protection of consumer rights. They may now protect, not just vulnerable adults who cannot access justice, but vulnerable children.

    When the Attorney General conducts investigations and finds material violations of law and policy by the privatized child placing agencies, he is now allowed to follow through with full prosecution of the agencies and their workers.

    In turn, families are provided proactive services, there are no longer phantom programs funded by DHHS, tens of millions of dollars in improper payments of improper, unneccessary services and placements of children in foster care are ameliorated.
    The number of children entering foster care are reduced because privatized child placing agencies must promote and advocate for placement of children within the family which is more cost effective than having a child prescribed psychiatric medication to “calm” from the trauma of being ripped from his/her home and placed in a strangers home, further reducing medicaid waste and fraud.

    Privatized child placing agencies, under the theory of punishment by deterrence, will produce accurate and transparent audit reports, simply from the fear of prosecution.
    Practices of targeting minority and impoverished children, due to the fact that child abuse and neglect is an entitlement program, will cease in the face of civil rights penalties.

    Privatization is a model for accountability and transparency by reducing dependency of federal funding streams in Social Security, mainly Medicaid, the largest uncapped funding stream of child welfare.

    Through privatization, a state is no longer liable for litigation. The Executive Office is no longer a demagogue to privatized child placing agencies, who also lobby and financially contribute to political campaigns (many without proper IRS status), but becomes the fiscal savior of our future.

    Everyone wins…except the privatized child placing agencies which violate federal and state laws and policies, under color of state law, like those under the leadership of Todd Reckling.

    Beverly Tran

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