Newsroom > DHHS News Release

October 5, 2012
Russ Reno, Communications and Legislative Services, (o) 402-471-8287, (c) 402-450-7318 (
DHHS Director Provides Overview of Child Welfare System
Lincoln – Nebraskans who believe a child is being abused or neglected are required by law to report it, said Thomas Pristow, director of Children and Family Services in the Department of Health and Human Services, Friday (10/5) at a hearing on Legislative Resolutions 525 and 529.
LR 525 examines how Nebraska’s screening, assessing and investigating reports of child abuse and neglect contributes to the state’s rate of out-of-home care. LR 529 makes recommendations about the entry of children into the child welfare system.
Pristow provided the Health and Human Services and Judiciary committees an overview of child welfare screening and entry information.
“The Adult and Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline is the front door to the system and is vital in ensuring the Department works with families needing support to provide a safe environment for their children,” he said. “Anyone who has reasonable cause to believe a child is being abused or neglected has a responsibility to call the Hotline at 1-800-652-1999, or law enforcement.”
Hotline staff is available every day of the year, 24 hours a day, he said. 
In 2011, the Hotline received more than 30,000 calls reporting adult and child abuse and neglect, Pristow said. A new screening process called Structured Decision Making® was test piloted in Omaha and Lincoln from January to June. It uses research and evidence-based tools to reduce subsequent harm to children and expedite permanent placement.
SDM was implemented statewide July 1, for protection and safety specialists to make decision about serving children and families, he said. With this tool, workers determine child safety before they leave a home and it is updated throughout the life of a case.
“Staff has been very receptive to the SDM process and it will assist us in ensuring children and families receive the support they need,” Pristow said. “We anticipate that permanency may be achieved more quickly by safely returning children home, or by finding an appropriate adoptive or guardianship placement.”
He also discussed an alternative response system to reports of abuse and neglect called Differential Response. Aimed at families where there is no indication of an urgent, investigative response, Differential Response provides support to families and connects them to the community resources they need to resolve issues that put their children at risk.
“A Differential Response is a way to support families in a caring and helpful way,” Pristow said. 
Key stakeholders and DHHS staff are meeting to learn more about Differential Response and provide advice about how it can best be implemented in Nebraska. It is expected to launch in 2013.
Those involved in the meetings include representatives of:  Court Improvement Project, Appleseed, Voices for Children, Nebraska Foster and Adoptive Parent Association, Omni Behavioral Health, the Foster Care Review Office, the Family Federation, the Lancaster County Attorney’s Office and members of these Legislative Committees.
A complete copy of Director Pristow’s testimony with presentation slides will be available at this link this afternoon: