Heineman gives lukewarm response to foster care recommendations
December 20th, 2011
Omaha, NE – Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman gave a lukewarm response Tuesday to a committee’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 state’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 children’s services. Nebraska’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 he’s concerned about the potential cost of the recommendations, and that he’s waiting to see how lawmakers intend to pay for it. Heineman said these are “complex issues” and if there were easy answers, the state “would’ve found them a long time ago.”
Heineman also said he still needs to discuss the report with lawmakers and services providers, and he hopes to find “common ground.”
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 it’s high time children’s services were given top priority in the state.
We’ll have more on Maca’s interview, and what it takes to navigate the child welfare system in Nebraska in a series of reports in January.