Newsroom > DHHS News Release

October 15, 2010

Jeanne Atkinson, Communication and Legislative Services, DHHS (402) 471-8287
Sandra Gasca-Gonzalez, President, KVC Behavioral Health Care Nebraska (402) 301-1986
Dave Newell, Executive Director, Nebraska Families Collaborative (402) 402-498-1230

DHHS Announces Next Steps to Strengthen Child Welfare/Juvenile Services Reform

Lincoln -- Kerry Winterer, CEO of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), announced today the next steps in the state’s child welfare and juvenile services reform initiative. Nebraska received $9.8 million in one-time federal emergency funding for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Six million dollars of state general funds redirected as a result will be targeted to further the reform initiative. The remaining TANF funds have not been designated.

The goals of the reform initiative are to increase in-home care and services while decreasing out-of-home services, and to improve outcomes for child and community safety, permanency and well-being for children and families.

Winterer said, “This is a significant change that will benefit the children and families we serve. Lead contractors have invested significant money toward successful reform of the child welfare and juvenile services system. We recognize that the changes that need to occur to produce the shift in services and stability to the financing of the reform will take some additional time. This funding allows flexibility and an investment in child welfare and juvenile services reform at a time it is needed to reinforce the reform effort. We’ve said this is a work in progress as we continue to evaluate the contracts and realign them as necessary to see improved outcomes for children and families.”

Winterer summarized the steps being taken to move reform efforts ahead:

  • The Boys and Girls Home contract was cancelled;
  • A Request for Qualifications (RFQ) will be issued in the near future to determine interest in being a lead contractor to replace Boys and Girls Home in the Northern, Western and Central Service Areas;
  • Additional funding has now been identified; and
  • A process to transfer responsibility for certain case management decisions to lead contractors will begin.

“We’re focusing on what’s best for children and families. The funding we just received will allow changes to be made sooner rather than later,” said Todd Reckling, director of the DHHS Division of Children and Family Services.

The Department continues to move forward with reform efforts, with positive results being seen, even in the short time since full implementation in April 2010. Prior to initiating the reform efforts, 70% of children in the State’s custody were placed out of home. Now, 65% are being served out of their homes. In Lancaster County and the surrounding counties, that percentage is 58%.

The Department is currently developing a plan with the lead contractors to transfer responsibility for certain case management decisions from the Division of Children and Family Services to lead contractors in a manner that will allow families and foster families to interact with one worker, without duplicating efforts between DHHS and lead contractors.

“The Department will continue to need experienced Children and Family Services staff in child welfare and juvenile services,” said Reckling. Department Children and Family Services Specialist staff will continue to have responsibility for core functions that include intake, initial assessments/investigations and contract and case oversight including case management decisions that primarily relate to court recommendations.

“This change builds on the experiences of other states, such as Kansas and Florida, that have taken advantage of the flexibility of private contractors and, as a result, have adapted to challenges and shown improved outcomes.”

Under the proposal being considered, the first areas of the state to transfer responsibility for certain case management decisions would be the Eastern Service Area working with the Nebraska Families Collaborative and KVC, and the Southeast Service Area working with KVC, with a target date of January 1, 2011.

Sandra Gasca-Gonzalez, President, KVC Behavioral HealthCare Nebraska, applauded the Department’s direction. “This is a major efficiency move that could allow partners to focus on our respective areas of responsibility leading to better outcomes for children and families” Gasca-Gonzalez said.

“Our number one priority is making sure children and families get the help they need and the agreement that was announced today will allow us to do this even better,” said Dave Newell, Nebraska Families Collaborative Executive Director. “We look forward to continuing our partnership with the state and are excited for the future of Nebraska’s child welfare reform.”

Progress toward this change will be outlined periodically on the Children and Family Services website at