The Kansas-based nonprofit that received criticism for delivering subpar foster care to eastern Nebraska’s neediest children will no longer handle cases, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services announced today through a press release. Saint Francis Ministries will continue placing children, according to DHHS, but other services will transfer to three state agencies.
Read our story “Nebraska Foster Care, Climbing Out of The Spiral.”
The transition will being Jan. 3 and end by June 30. The press release, which quoted DHHS CEO Dannette R. Smith and William Clark, president and CEO of Saint Francis Ministries, said ending the contract was “mutual.”
State politicians and foster care advocates had criticized the program ever since 2019 when it promised to care for the wellbeing of the Omaha area’s neediest kids for 40% of the cost of the last local provider—a difference of nearly $144.6 million.
The figure stunned many, and it didn’t take long until problems began to appear. The organization’s caseworkers were overworked and Saint Francis never met state-mandated caseload limits. Internally, Saint Francis was also struggling with whistleblower reports revealed company leaders mishandled funds.
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In early 2020, Clark told lawmakers Saint Francis was in danger of running out of money. DHHS and Saint Francis signed a 25-month emergency contract for $147 million.
“It was stranger than fiction,” State Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh told The Reader earlier this year. “And the [controversies] just kept coming.”
The State Will Terminate its Multimillion Dollar Child Welfare Contract With Saint Francis Ministries Early
Cavanaugh helped convene a special legislative investigation into how Saint Francis received its contract. The committee, which Cavanaugh was not asked to be a part of, faced controversy for its lack of urgency, but was ultimately slated to release a preliminary report tomorrow, Dec. 15.
The rocky relationship Nebraska had with Saint Francis Ministries is another chapter in the state’s long troubled child welfare system.
In 2009, Nebraska privatized the system. Within a few years, all but one had failed. The Boys Town-run PromiseShip operated in the Omaha area until 2020.
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