Up Front


State again providing services for 43 percent of child welfare cases When Boys and Girls Home of Nebraska announced a few weeks ago that it would terminate services beginning on Friday, child welfare privatization in Nebraska began to look a lot less private. The reform process was designed to leave the government responsible only for providing case managers. Five contracted private agencies were to handle all other services, both in and out of the home, for an estimated 10,000 children statewide, according to December 2009 statistics from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. One year later, the state is again providing those services for about 2,700 (about 43 percent) of an estimated 6,347 state wards. Eighteen-hundred of those kids came from Boys and Girls Home, and another 900 from Visinet, whose contract ended in April when it declared bankruptcy, according to HHS Public Information Officer Jeanne Atkinson. Critics say they expected as much. “Our biggest point on this is that it’s concerning, but it wasn’t a surprise, and we wish the state would have stepped in to prevent this from happening,” says Sarah Helvey, staff attorney and director of the child welfare program for Nebraska Appleseed. “And now that it’s happening, [the state needs] to take a real look at the reform process.” Boys and Girl Home was the main contractor for three of the state’s five child welfare regions, including much of rural Nebraska. When Visinet and CEDARS ended their contracts in the spring, their cases were split among the state and remaining providers, including the Nebraska Families Cooperative, KVC-Nebraska and Boys and Girls Home. KVC took on 2,000 more children in July, and Executive Director Sandra Gasca-Gonzalez says the company simply can’t take anymore at this point. Gasca-Gonzalez, who worked for KVC-Kansas during that state’s privatization process, says while one provider in Kansas dropped out and another filed bankruptcy, the state started with more contractors than did Nebraska. Atkinson says the department will search for a new provider soon. “Right now, the priority is making smooth transition for families from Boys and Girls Home,” she says. “Then, we’ll move on to finding a replacement lead contractor.” KVC has no plans to back out of its contract, Gasca-Gonzalez says, despite a projected loss of $5.5 million for the year. “As far as we’re concerned, we’re continuing to move forward in the reform,” she says. “We’re just going to continue to forge ahead.”


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