New Nebraska laws aim to remake child-welfare system

Stateline Midwest ~ May 2012

Tackling an issue that many of them viewed as the most important policy priority of 2012, Nebraska lawmakers have adopted a series of reforms to a child-welfare system mired in controversy and turmoil.

According to the Omaha World-Herald, the changes will, in part, upend an effort undertaken in 2009 to privatize child-welfare services. In most parts of Nebraska, cases will now be handled by the state itself.

The Legislature’s actions took place amid concerns about costs, how caseloads were being managed, and the outcomes for abused or neglected children in the system. Other components of the five-bill package, signed into law in April, include:

• reducing caseloads for child-welfare workers to the standard set by the Child Welfare League of America;
• requiring more data and reporting on the system’s performance;
• creating the new position of inspector general for child welfare and establishing a statewide Children’s Commission to develop a child-welfare plan for the state; and
• boosting payments for foster care parents.