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As many as two-thirds of the people in treatment for drug abuse reported being abused or neglected as children.

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Nebraska CPS News Archive

Nebraska News Coverage

In 2009, Nebraska privatized its child welfare. Now critics say it hasn't worked. Our coverage investigates current juvenile justice policies - many of them controversial - and closely examines the burgeoning debate over proposed new approaches.

Foster parent Jenae VanEvery got a call around midnight one day in September 2011 asking if she could take in two sisters - ages 2 and 3 - who had been found living in filth and squalor by Lincoln, Neb. police. The children were in the custody of the non-profit group KVC, one of the private contractors the state of Nebraska had hired after deciding in 2009 to privatize its child welfare system. VanEvery agreed but said she could not pick up the children until the next afternoon.

August 21, 2012

by Sam Womack

The disgruntled wife of a prison inmate tipped investigators to a sexual relationship between her husband and a female caseworker, according to court records.

Elizabeth M. Blake, 27, was charged in June with sexual abuse of a 30-year-old male inmate, a felony. She had been a caseworker at the Community Corrections Center in Omaha.

August 9, 2012

by Martha Stoddard

LINCOLN - Nebraska's last private child welfare contractor will get less money this year to care for abused and neglected children in the Omaha area.

Starting July 1, the state began paying the Omaha-based Nebraska Families Collaborative by the case instead of a fixed amount per month. The change, according to a World-Herald analysis, means the difference between a potential $65 million for the year and an estimated $58 million under the new contract.

July 26, 2012

by Emma Murray

Wednesday evening, amid cheering swimmers at Elmwood Leisure Pool's City Championship meet, Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle announced an extended pool season and a temporary reduction of admission costs.

Starting Friday, 17 of the city's 18 pools will begin charging reduced rates - 25 cents for children under 18 and $1 for everyone else, Suttle said. (The one that won't is Common Ground Community Center, though officials gave no explanation.) Additionally - "the icing on the cake," as Suttle put it - the Elmwood, Zorinsky, Gallagher and Hitchcock pools will stay open until Labor Day.

July 25, 2012

by Kim Schmidt

KEARNEY - The Kenwood Elementary School Cougars will get their mascot.

The 2-year-old male mountain lion that was killed in southwest Kearney in May 2011 will soon be gracing the entryway of the school at 915 16th Ave. Kearney Public Schools acquired the carcass and the cat is being stuffed and mounted.

July 8, 2012

by Nicole Ebat

OMAHA -- Authorities say eight children, all under the age of 11, were found in a house with mold, dirty water puddled on the floor and cockroaches scattering around.

Child Protective Service agents did a check on the house last Wednesday. When they were searching the home, they couldn't find any food in the house. Valerie Torres,27, and Kejuan Moore,29, were cited with child neglect charges.

July 3, 2012

by Andrew Bottrell

The mother of two North Platte boys reportedly found by police locked in a dog kennel on Oct. 24, 2011, has received two years of probation.

Ashly Clark, 23, of North Platte pleaded no contest to one count of felony child abuse, a class 3A felony, in Lincoln County District Court on Monday. Clark waived a pre-sentence investigation and Judge Richard Birch ordered her to serve two years probation.

July 3, 2012

LINCOLN - An overhaul of the watchdog agency that monitors Nebraska's foster care cases has taken effect. The new Foster Care Review Office announced Monday that it has replaced the 30-year-old Nebraska Foster Care Review Board.

The board was created as a watchdog for the Department of Health and Human Services, to address concerns that too many children were being taken from homes and kept as state wards for too long.

July 3, 2012

by Christopher Burbach

Jerry Sandusky probably will be locked up for the rest of his life, which would extract justice for his victims and provide protection for other potential victims in Pennsylvania. But what about abuse victims closer to home?

The day after Sandusky, a former Penn State University football coach, was convicted of 45 child sex abuse charges, a dance teacher in Omaha made his first court appearance to face charges of sexually abusing three boys he had taught. The center last year provided sexual abuse services to more than 1,300 children from metropolitan Omaha and southwest Iowa. And for every known incident of abuse, many more occur without being reported, experts say.

July 3, 2012

by Joanne Young

The Nebraska Foster Care Review office made a shift July 1 to a new interim director, name change and smaller advisory committee.

Campbell said it took time to get the list of applicants -- 12 names from local boards, four with data analysis experience and four from the public at large. The committee had to research whether the applicants had any financial interest in the foster care system, which is not allowed by the state law, and that they were not employed by the office, the Department of Health and Human Services, a county, a child-caring agency, a child-placing agency or a court.

July 3, 2012

by Deena Winter

A new report by a national child advocacy group says Nebraska appears to be making progress in taking fewer children out of their homes and putting them in foster care.

The report says during the year ending Sept. 30, Nebraska took away 2,540 children, compared to 3,373 the prior year and the lowest number since at least 1999. A national expert on child welfare reform, Richard Wexler, said a 25 percent drop is significant - assuming it's accurate and the state is not "massaging the numbers."

June 21, 2012

The new position of inspector general of Nebraska child welfare has been filled.

A news release from the Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee says Julie Rogers has been selected for the position, which was authorized by a measure approved this past session.

June 21, 2012

Wildlife experts say the recent cougar sightings across Nebraska could become more common.

What to do in case of an encounter: Due to their secretive nature and low density, mountain lions rarely interact with humans. Occasional interactions may occur with human infringement on natural areas and mountain lion immigration into populated areas with high deer densities.

June 15, 2012

by Nina Harrelson

More than 375 Nebraska criminal justice officials and dozens of law enforcement agencies are attending the 25th Annual LECC (Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee) Criminal Justice Conference Wednesday and Thursday in Kearney.

Among the hot-button issues being discussed are recent changes in Nebraska's child welfare system, including returning management of child welfare cases to the state. Nebraska's child welfare system has been criticized by lawmakers who say a change is long overdue. As of January, Nebraska had about 2,800 kids in the system.

May 24, 2012

by Fred Weir

The tragic death of a 9-year old Russian-born boy, who was apparently alone in the Nebraska home of his adoptive American parents when it burned down last week, has triggered a renewed outpouring of media outrage in Russia.

"This death raises many questions," Mr. Astakhov wrote on his blog, according to Russian media. "Either the boy was being punished [and for that reason was stuck in the basement during the fire] or he was neglected and got into the basement accidentally. Why the boy was locked in the basement and why he could not get out is something we will ask the US attorneys."

May 24, 2012

by Martha Stoddard

LINCOLN - Small, neat letters in the corner of Thomas Pristow's office whiteboard spell out his to-do list for the next several months. Policy rewrite. Organizational redesign. Staff site visits. Rate restructure. The list goes on.

But the much bigger task facing the man now in charge of Nebraska's child welfare and economic assistance programs will be rebuilding public confidence by reforming the embattled state agency, say state officials and community advocates. "Restoring confidence is essential to all those other tasks," said Carolyn Rooker, the head of Voices for Children in Nebraska. "To do that, he has to be willing to challenge the status quo."

April 15, 2012

by Paul Hammel

LINCOLN - For 15 years, Prince of the Road transportation services of Kearney has hauled foster children and other state wards to school, detention centers and appointments for the State of Nebraska.

But amid the financial troubles that struck the state's effort to privatize its child welfare system, the 100-employee company stopped getting paid for many of its 10,000 trips a month. Nearly 20 drivers were laid off when the payments stopped. The company got rid of minivans to help deal with nearly $115,000 in unpaid bills for services. But it kept providing the rides because the state asked it to continue.

March 9, 2012

by Christine Scalora

Sen. LeRoy Louden of Ellsworth introduced the bill, LB928, with the support of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, to allow the commission to establish a hunting season to manage the mountain lion population.

The Natural Resources Committee heard testimony on the bill in a public hearing on Feb. 2. Proponents said that letting mountain lions be hunted would help manage the mountain lion population, protect livestock and ease the minds of people who live near mountain lions. Opponents said hunting mountain lions was unnecessary, many pointing out that current law already allows mountain lions to be killed in certain situations.

February 3, 2012

by Nebraska Watchdog

The longtime director of the Foster Care Review Board was ousted today by her board of directors, who voted unanimously to terminate her after 29 sometimes tumultuous years at the helm.

It was unclear exactly why the board terminated Carol Stitt - who was hailed by both the board and her supporters as one of the fiercest advocates for foster kids in Nebraska. After the meeting, some of Stitt's supporters were in tears and others just furious. Lynn Rex, executive director of the League of Nebraska Municipalities, said it was disgraceful that Stitt was not allowed to continue "important work."

January 21, 2012

by Joanne Young

The Foster Care Review Board's removal of Carol Stitt as executive director could help push forward a legislative bill that could cause the board's demise.

Lincoln Sen. Kathy Campbell, chairwoman of the Health and Human Services Committee, said Friday afternoon six more senators have signed on to the bill (LB998) that would move its director and data collection function under control of the Legislature.

January 21, 2012

by Jake Wasikowski

Channel 6 News looks deeper into the story of a woman who apparently called 911 to come take her children away. Then isn't home with them when police arrive.

Police are looking for a woman who called 911 saying she couldn't care for her children anymore, and then abandoned them when police showed up. Police say a mother on the other end tells them she can no longer afford to take care of her four children, and that they should be taken away by child protective services. When officers arrive they find the kids, between the ages of 2 and 12, in a home they say wasn't fit for children to live. The 30-year-old mother couldn't be reached, and the kids were taken into protective custody. Jacque Schafer says she's seen at least one of the children outside half naked in the cold without supervision.

January 17, 2012

by Kevin O'Hanlon

Gov. Dave Heineman on Thursday unveiled a plan in his annual State of the State address to provide nearly $327 million in tax relief over the next three years.

"Our highest priority should be tax relief for Nebraska's hard-working, middle class taxpayers," Heineman said in his speech to the Legislature. "Our proposal lowers rates and expands the brackets so that Nebraska's hard-working taxpayers can keep more of their income." Heineman also acknowledged -- as he did before the legislative session began earlier this month -- that he is in tune with the desire of many lawmakers to fix the state's ailing child welfare system.

January 12, 2012

by Robyn Wisch

Omaha, NE – The child welfare system in Nebraska is incredibly complex. But for the families in the system, it’s incredibly personal.

In part one of our series: Child Welfare: Navigating a Fractured System, we examine why child welfare in the state has been so notoriously splintered, and how some families feel lost in it. The Theye family came to the attention of the state last year, because all three kids had missed weeks of school. And after going to court, the Department of Health and Human Services and KVC, a private agency contracted with the state, recommended the children be removed from the home. But instead of placing them in foster care, they placed them with their father. That’s a very different response from a few years ago, when the family first came into the system.

January 12, 2012

OMAHA - A children's advocacy group hopes Nebraska lawmakers will take a broad look at the health of the state's children and not focus just on whether privatization of the state's troubled child welfare system should continue.

The ongoing reform of Nebraska's child welfare system is shaping up to be one of the biggest issues this year's Legislature will face, and Thursday's release of the annual Kids Count report from Voices for Children in Nebraska will likely to add to the debate.

January 12, 2012

by Martha Stoddard

LINCOLN - Nebraska's 2012 legislative session looks to be the year of the child. During the next four months, lawmakers will wrestle with key questions about the future of child welfare and juvenile justice in the state.

How they answer - or don't answer - those questions will shape the lives of abused and neglected Nebraska children and youthful troublemakers. "I think this is going to be one of the more significant issues that we deal with," said State Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha. "We have a responsibility to these young people."

January 1, 2012

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