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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 21, 2009

CONTACT
Jeanne Atkinson, Communications and Legislative Services (402) 471-8287

 

DHHS: New Process to Follow Up on Child Welfare Calls

Lincoln – The Department of Health and Human Services has put a new process in place to make sure calls voicing concern about a child’s safety and well-being receive timely and skilled follow up.

Kerry Winterer, the department’s CEO, said in July in response to Michael Belitz’s death that the department would review its procedures to make sure they work as intended to respond to concerns about a child’s safety and well-being.

“Our review showed we could do a better job of getting some kinds of information to the child abuse and neglect hotline,” said Winterer. “Our specialized intake workers are skilled in gathering information so a thorough assessment can be made, and that drives our response. We need to make sure that all appropriate calls get to the hotline.”

Winterer said that in 2008, the hotline received 29,269 calls. Just over 24,000 were calls reporting possible child abuse or neglect. After additional information was gathered by trained hotline staff to assess the allegations and concerns, 13,460 (55.9%) were accepted for further investigation.

With the new process, if people call child welfare caseworkers with concerns, they will be transferred to the child abuse and neglect hotline to specialized workers trained to ask important questions and assess safety/risk. The caseworker will stay on the line to make sure the transfer is complete.

If a caseworker receives a written or voice mail message stating concern, the information will be documented on an electronic “alert to hotline” form that is now part of the department’s e-mail system and will go directly to hotline staff.

The hotline’s specialized workers will contact the caller for additional information. If repeated telephone calls don’t result in contact, a department caseworker or law enforcement officer will be asked to do a child welfare check and make personal contact with the child and family.

Winterer said information gathered by the hotline can lead to a variety of actions, such as a referral to community services, assistance in making a voluntary foster care placement, completion of a safety assessment, or possibly law enforcement or court involvement.

“We’ll continue to evaluate our processes and make changes where it makes sense to do so,” Winterer said.

The DHHS Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline number is 800-652-1999.

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