Another contractor drops out of child welfare reform

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February 20, 2012 - 6:00pm

Since the beginning, it's been a rocky road for child welfare reform. From an original five contractors in 2009, only two remain - and as of March 1, that will drop to one. KVC-Nebraska, which oversees cases in eastern and southeast Nebraska, announced that it was dropping all services apart from foster care placement.
 


Sandra Gasca-Gonzalez, CEO of KVC-Nebraska


"We're committed to the foster parents we have, and we want to build a program around that," said KVC-Nebraska CEO Sandra Gasca-Gonzalez. "That doesn't mean (that) if years down the road, there's a different opportunity, that we wouldn't look at that, but there's a lot of questions, even in the (Nebraska) legislature."

Gasca-Gonzalez said her agency and Nebraska Families Collaborative, which oversees cases in Douglas and Sarpy counties, reached a funding agreement with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services last Monday.
 


Scott Adams, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services


But three days later, it was rejected. Scott Adams, interim director of Children and Family Services, which oversees child welfare reform, said the proposal was too expensive.

"There was a team of us, with the governor (Dave Heineman), that decided to go a different direction," he said.

Gasca-Gonzalez said KVC has invested $14 million of its own money into child welfare reform in Nebraska; total costs for the system have grown from $107.7 million to $136.5 million as of September 2011. While Adams said the governor and legislature are concerned by the increasing costs of child welfare, DHHS will be requesting an additional $20 million for their budget.

All four lead contractors who terminated their services cited inadequate funding.

So how private is Nebraska's privatized child welfare, now that essentially all cases except two-thirds of Omaha are back in state hands?

Very, Adams said: "Nearly all the services that are delivered of a therapeutic nature are delivered by private agencies. So in that sense, almost the entire system is privatized."

He added that NFC currently controls 28 percent of total child welfare cases in the state; if they agree to take on KVC's cases in Douglas and Sarpy counties, that number will hit 42 percent.

Despite the turnover, Adams said the state is close to meeting important goals.
 


Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln


But Lincoln Sen. Kathy Campbell, chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, called it a system "in crisis."

Several bills concerning child welfare reform are being discussed in the Nebraska Legislature, and Campbell said they'll be working closely with DHHS and Gov. Heineman.

The committee will want to have discussions, certainly, with the Department and the governor and the staff, to say, OK, how do we move forward from today?'" she said. "And there may need to be a transition ... But we're more than willing to work with the governor and the Department in building that transition, and the steps forward. I'm very confident of that."

Gasca-Gonzalez said KVC will drop from seven offices to two; one in Papillion and one in Lincoln. She and DHHS said they're planning to move most KVC caseworkers over to the department.

She urged the community to work together to move forward.

It just seems like there always has to be a bad guy in the child welfare system," she said. "I would hope that the community stakeholders and everybody involved in this system will get behind the department, take this as an opportunity to support them and not beat them down."

 

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