Heineman gives lukewarm response to foster care recommendations
December 20th, 2011
Omaha, NE – Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman gave a lukewarm response Tuesday to a committeeâ€™s recommendations on child welfare.
Governor Heineman responded to a hefty report released last week. It was compiled by a legislative committee tasked with investigating the stateâ€™s efforts to reform its unwieldy child welfare system. Among 17 recommendations, the report advised the state re-take control of the system from private agencies and create a new division to oversee childrenâ€™s services. Nebraskaâ€™s Department of Health and Human Services has come under fire for its efforts, which began in 2009, to privatize the child welfare system. Critics say the reform was too hasty, and implemented without enough planning.
The state contracted out case management to five private agencies; three have since dropped out, saying the state expected too much and paid too little.
But in a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Governor Heineman said heâ€™s concerned about the potential cost of the recommendations, and that heâ€™s waiting to see how lawmakers intend to pay for it. Heineman said these are â€œcomplex issuesâ€ and if there were easy answers, the state â€œwouldâ€™ve found them a long time ago.â€
Heineman also said he still needs to discuss the report with lawmakers and services providers, and he hopes to find â€œcommon ground.â€
In an interview with KVNO News, Vicki Maca, an administrator in the Division of Children and Family Services at HHS said the department stands ready and willing to adapt to whatever changes are decided on. Maca added she welcomes the attention to child welfare in Nebraska, and says itâ€™s high time childrenâ€™s services were given top priority in the state.
Weâ€™ll have more on Macaâ€™s interview, and what it takes to navigate the child welfare system in Nebraska in a series of reports in January.