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2010

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Neb. senators assess role in child welfare reform

Friday, December 31st, 2010
Some Nebraska lawmakers frustrated by state attempts to privatize foster care and other child welfare services could take more of a hand in that process this session. Last November, the state Department of Health and Human Services began to transfer control of those child and family services to independent contractors. But since April, the state has lost 3 of its five contractors. 2 of the companies said the state wasn't paying them enough. That has left the state with only two providers: KVC Behavioral HealthCare Nebraska and the Nebraska Families Collaborative. Child advocacy groups and even county attorneys have slammed the changes, saying they have led to confusion and poor service. The department's plan to transfer day-to-day case management from state workers to the private companies by Monday is too soon and risky, many have said. Information from the Department of Health and Human Services on how the reform plans will progress and how much it will cost has been vague, said state Sen. Kathy Campbell, of Lincoln, who is likely to succeed outgoing state Sen. Tim Gay as head of the Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee. "I think the Legislature has a role to play here as far as oversight," said Campbell. "The protection of children would dictate that we take the time." [...]
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Child welfare perplexes lawmakers

Thursday, December 30th, 2010
By the time Nebraska lawmakers gather Wednesday in Lincoln, a controversial shift in the child welfare system will be almost complete. Private contractors will have taken over most of the responsibility for ensuring the safety and well-being of state wards. State employees will be relegated to overseeing the contractors’ work. They will also investigate initial reports of abuse and neglect. But, starting in January, they will no longer manage individual child welfare cases in the Omaha area, Lincoln and southeast Nebraska. The timing creates a quandary for state lawmakers who had questioned the Department of Health and Human Services’ plans to increase privatization of child welfare services. “We are in kind of a tough spot in terms of what we can do,? said State Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln. “People ask me all the time, ‘Can’t you write a bill to stop that?’ The reality is, I can’t.? On the one hand, lawmakers are loath to micromanage a state agency that is under the direction of the governor. On the other hand, they say the Legislature has an obligation to get involved in issues that affect some of the state’s most vulnerable children. [...]
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Child welfare perplexes lawmakers

Thursday, December 30th, 2010
By the time Nebraska lawmakers gather Wednesday in Lincoln, a controversial shift in the child welfare system will be almost complete. Private contractors will have taken over most of the responsibility for ensuring the safety and well-being of state wards. State employees will be relegated to overseeing the contractors’ work. They will also investigate initial reports of abuse and neglect. But, starting in January, they will no longer manage individual child welfare cases in the Omaha area, Lincoln and southeast Nebraska. The timing creates a quandary for state lawmakers who had questioned the Department of Health and Human Services’ plans to increase privatization of child welfare services. “We are in kind of a tough spot in terms of what we can do,? said State Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln. “People ask me all the time, ‘Can’t you write a bill to stop that?’ The reality is, I can’t.? On the one hand, lawmakers are loath to micromanage a state agency that is under the direction of the governor. On the other hand, they say the Legislature has an obligation to get involved in issues that affect some of the state’s most vulnerable children. [...]
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Coalition: Child abuse deaths a ‘dark American secret’

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010
In February 2008, 7-week-old Caitlynne Bohlen of Grand Island died from suffocation after her mother's boyfriend reportedly placed a pacifier in her mouth, wrapped a blanket around her head and used a pillow to squeeze her against the side of her crib. Twenty-three-year-old Christopher Klein is serving five to seven years in the Nebraska State Penitentiary for manslaughter in her death. In January 2008, a 28-year-old Omaha man was arrested in the death of his son, 8-month-old Jaiden-Jackson Self. Marquale Self is serving 20 to 32 years for child abuse resulting in his death. Fifteen more times that year, Nebraska children died as the result of child abuse or neglect, ranking the state second behind Florida in the rate of child abuse deaths per 100,000 children. In 2007 and 2008, Nebraska also ranked in the top three states for the rate of deaths of children from child abuse or neglect: 16 in 2007 and 17 in 2008. The recently released 2009 rankings show Nebraska had improved to 18th in the country in the rate of deaths, not including the District of Columbia. Last year, the state recorded 10. Nationally, child abuse deaths have increased in recent years. In 2009, the official number reported by the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data Systems was 1,676. [...]
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Coalition: Child abuse deaths a ‘dark American secret’

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010
In February 2008, 7-week-old Caitlynne Bohlen of Grand Island died from suffocation after her mother's boyfriend reportedly placed a pacifier in her mouth, wrapped a blanket around her head and used a pillow to squeeze her against the side of her crib. Twenty-three-year-old Christopher Klein is serving five to seven years in the Nebraska State Penitentiary for manslaughter in her death. In January 2008, a 28-year-old Omaha man was arrested in the death of his son, 8-month-old Jaiden-Jackson Self. Marquale Self is serving 20 to 32 years for child abuse resulting in his death. Fifteen more times that year, Nebraska children died as the result of child abuse or neglect, ranking the state second behind Florida in the rate of child abuse deaths per 100,000 children. In 2007 and 2008, Nebraska also ranked in the top three states for the rate of deaths of children from child abuse or neglect: 16 in 2007 and 17 in 2008. The recently released 2009 rankings show Nebraska had improved to 18th in the country in the rate of deaths, not including the District of Columbia. Last year, the state recorded 10. Nationally, child abuse deaths have increased in recent years. In 2009, the official number reported by the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data Systems was 1,676. [...]
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Two foster care review board members won’t return

Saturday, December 11th, 2010
Gov. Dave Heineman sent letters to two Foster Care Review Board members last month telling them they would not be reappointed. Alfredo Ramirez, the current chairman of the board, and Ron Albin, a Norfolk attorney, whose terms will expire Jan. 1, both received letters. Ramirez said this week he was "very disappointed" the governor was going to let his three-year term expire without reappointing him. Ramirez said he intends to ask for a meeting with the governor to state his case about why he would like to continue to serve on the board. He was appointed in January 2008. Jen Rae Hein, a spokeswoman for Heineman, said board members serve at the pleasure of the governor and he regularly makes changes on boards to involve more people. Hein said the decision was made not to reappoint the two members, and the letters prepared and sent, before the Foster Care Review Board sent a letter to the state Department of Health and Human Services and the governor critical of recent decisions made by HHS on child welfare reform. [...]
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More child care in private hands

Friday, December 10th, 2010
Nebraska would replace 77 state child welfare positions with private contractors under a controversial plan given the green light Thursday. The plan initially would quadruple the average caseload size for remaining state employees — from the current 20 per worker. Caseloads could grow even more, up to 120 per employee, depending on how things go. State officials say workers will be able to handle more cases because their responsibilities will become more limited. The plan would save the state more than $4.5 million a year, according to documents submitted by the Department of Health and Human Services justifying the change. Todd Reckling, HHS children and family services director, said officials are weighing their options for use of the savings and looking at plowing it back into the contracts. He said there are no plans to cut the child welfare budget. The documents were filed Monday with the Nebraska Department of Administrative Services, as required by state law. Department Director Carlos Castillo approved the plan Thursday. [...]
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Agency submits caseworker plan; management can be transferred to private contractors

Thursday, December 9th, 2010
The Department of Health and Human Services has complied with state law in submitting a plan to transfer case management jobs from state workers to private contractors and can amend its contracts to carry that out, according to Carlos Castillo, Department of Administrative Services director. The agency submitted the plan Monday and received approval from Castillo on Thursday. Todd Reckling, director of the department's division of children and family services, said submitting the plan took a little longer than he wanted, but the department wanted to be thorough in complying with the requirements. By state law, the Department of Administrative Services is required to approve or disapprove contracts between the state and a private provider if state employees will be replaced by contractor employees. As a result of child welfare reform, now known as Families Matter, private providers took over some duties of foster care and related services more than a year ago. In October, the Department of Health and Human Services announced it would turn over case management of foster cases, as well, to KVC and Nebraska Families Collaborative, resulting in a loss of jobs for some agency employees by the first of the year. NAPE/AFSCME, the union that represents the case managers, subsequently complained that the agency had announced the changes but had not complied with state law on seeking approval from the Adminstrative Services Department. "If the requirements are not met, the contracting process and subsequent layoffs would be, in our opinion, illegal actions," Lincoln attorney Dalton Tietjen had said in a letter to department CEO Kerry Winterer. "Given the huge human costs of the ill-conceived proposed changes, it is imperative that all legal requirements be scrupulously followed." [...]
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Agency submits caseworker plan; management can be transferred to private contractors

Thursday, December 9th, 2010
The Department of Health and Human Services has complied with state law in submitting a plan to transfer case management jobs from state workers to private contractors and can amend its contracts to carry that out, according to Carlos Castillo, Department of Administrative Services director. The agency submitted the plan Monday and received approval from Castillo on Thursday. Todd Reckling, director of the department's division of children and family services, said submitting the plan took a little longer than he wanted, but the department wanted to be thorough in complying with the requirements. By state law, the Department of Administrative Services is required to approve or disapprove contracts between the state and a private provider if state employees will be replaced by contractor employees. As a result of child welfare reform, now known as Families Matter, private providers took over some duties of foster care and related services more than a year ago. In October, the Department of Health and Human Services announced it would turn over case management of foster cases, as well, to KVC and Nebraska Families Collaborative, resulting in a loss of jobs for some agency employees by the first of the year. NAPE/AFSCME, the union that represents the case managers, subsequently complained that the agency had announced the changes but had not complied with state law on seeking approval from the Adminstrative Services Department. "If the requirements are not met, the contracting process and subsequent layoffs would be, in our opinion, illegal actions," Lincoln attorney Dalton Tietjen had said in a letter to department CEO Kerry Winterer. "Given the huge human costs of the ill-conceived proposed changes, it is imperative that all legal requirements be scrupulously followed." [...]
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In re Interest of Justin H. et al.

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Filed on December 7, 2010
18 Neb. App. 718, 791 N.W.2d 765
SUMMARY: Termination of parental rights was improper as to the children not connected to the inappropriate sexual contact because the parents established significant progress in their ability to care and protect the children. However, with the children involved in the sexual assault, the parents [...]