Fourth private contractor drops out of child welfare

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February 21st, 2012

Omaha, NE – Nebraska’s efforts to privatize its child welfare system took another blow today.

Sandra Gasca-Gonzalez, President of KVC-Nebraska, told NET News she hopes the community gets behind DHHS, and takes the change as an opportunity to support the department, and "not beat them down." (Photo courtesy KVC)

Another private agency will end its contract with the state of Nebraska. KVC Behavioral Healthcare has managed child welfare cases since the state began privatizing foster care as part of a massive reform effort in 2009. DHHS announced Tuesday that relationship is ending as of March 1st.

Scot Adams, interim director of the Division of Children and Family Services at DHHS, said finances played a fundamental role in the decision. “We came to a mutual agreement between KVC and the state that the decision for the state to take the case management services over was in the best interest of children and families in the state, as well as in each of the organization’s best interest,” Adams said.

KVC asked for an additional $2 million per month from the state last November. DHHS negotiated that down to a one-time payment of $1.8 million. But the two couldn’t agree on a future payment plan.

The agency is the fourth to drop out citing financial concerns. When privatization began, the state contracted with five lead agencies. Now, just one remains. KVC was one of the largest in the system, serving 3,600 children in southeast Nebraska, including Lincoln and Omaha. The majority of those children will now be served – once again – by DHHS.

Adams said the department will work to hire as many KVC employees as possible. (More on KVC’s response from NET News)

“Our first goal in this transition is to make sure that we do not cause additional disruption and turmoil for children and for families,” Adams said. “So our interest in hiring many of the KVC employees is to be able to ensure is to ensure a smooth transition by keeping their case manager and the case manager supervisor the same for the family, in as many cases as possible.”

Carolyn Rooker is the Executive Director of Voices for Children in Nebraska, an advocacy group that has been monitoring reforms. She said the transition has just over a week to be implemented, and such an abrupt change adds further flux to an already unstable system.

“Wow,” she said. “It has huge potential to cause further instability for kids in the system.”

“I’m just hoping sincerely that KVC and DHHS have a plan to minimize that confusion and instability,” she said. “As we know, these children are already extremely vulnerable. They’ve been through the last two years of instability. So I’m just very concerned about the time frame in which this will happen.”

Rooker said KVC dropping out doesn’t mean privatization won’t work for Nebraska. But she said it has to be implemented carefully. A child doesn’t care who his case manager works for, she said, what’s important to a child is consistency.

More:

Lawmakers call for state to take control of child welfare

Child Welfare: Navigating a Fractured System

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