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Richard Wexler, author of "Wounded Innocents," estimates that out of every 100 reports of alleged child abuse: "58 are false; 21 are poverty cases...

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Nebraska CPS News Archive

Nebraska News Coverage

by Nebraska Watchdog

The speaker of the Nebraska Legislature says reform of the state system for handling abused and neglected children will be the top issue of the upcoming legislative session.

Flood said he appreciates the work Lincoln Sen. Kathy Campbell and her Health and Human Services Committee has done, traveling the state to hear from Nebraskans, working with other branches of government and putting out what he calls a "thoughtful report."

December 17, 2011

by Paul Hammel and Martha Stoddard

Saying the state's push to privatize its child welfare system has created chaos and crisis, a panel of Nebraska lawmakers called Thursday for a sweeping overhaul of how abused and neglected children under state care are managed.

The final report from a months-long study of the system made several recommendations to create better outcomes for children and produce better financial oversight for the state.

December 15, 2011

by Joanne Young

Four years ago Monday, a former state ward walked into Von Maur in Omaha and killed six customers, two employees and himself.

The Foster Care Review Board said Monday the state must stabilize its child welfare system, which served 8,258 children in 2010. Board members and Executive Director Carol Stitt presented the agency's annual report, the last one that will be received by the committee before its own report and recommendations come out Dec. 15. One of the most critical concerns about child welfare reform, known as Families Matter, is worker caseload and long hours, and the amount of worker turnover, said board member Mario Scalora.

December 5, 2011

by Steve White

Six lawyers who are used to arguing cases before a judge today made the case that they should be the area's next judge. Judge David Bush retired this spring in Grand Island.

Former Hall County Attorney Jerry Janulewicz was chosen by random order to speak first. He outlined his career, which started as a foster care case worker. He didn't plan on being a lawyer, but went to law school and has worked as a prosecutor and private practice defense lawyer. He has worked with the drug court, and has civil law experience.

October 12, 2011

Departmental structure, strategic plans, accountability, oversight, blah, blah, blah. The more talk we hear about Nebraska's foster care problems, the more we are convinced that our state leaders still are looking for the perfect business model.

Beyond all the boardroom clatter about efficiencies and benchmarks, our foster care system needs an advocate who stands up for some of our state's most vulnerable residents and pushes for reforms in their name. Who ought to be this special voice for the foster children who have no say? There's no bigger mistake our state government can make than to allow this mismanagement of foster care to continue, but let's do more than tidy up the books. Let's turn foster care into a program that truly makes a difference.

October 4, 2011

by Zach Pluhacek

Melissa Portillo and her 2-year-old daughter, JonTaia Warrack, still were missing Friday evening after they disappeared together during a supervised visit at Portillo's apartment on 26th and M streets.

Police have given little information on the circumstances, but the girl's foster mother -- who wouldn't identify JonTaia by name -- said the girl's biological mother fled Friday morning through a bedroom window after locking a foster care case worker in a hallway. By late Friday, a judge had issued an arrest warrant for Portillo on a charge of violating child custody, a felony.

August 21, 2011

Another contractor for child welfare services in Nebraska is in financial trouble. KVC has laid off 75 of its roughly 500 employees.

Another contractor for child welfare services in Nebraska is in financial trouble. KVC has laid off 75 of its roughly 500 employees.

June 18, 2011

by Todd Cooper

The state knew where to find Micheal Eggleston to collect child support payments for his toddler daughter.

However, Nebraska Health and Human Services caseworkers were clueless when it came time to find him for real child support - that is, when they needed someone to raise the girl. It took more than eight months to notify Eggleston that his daughter was in foster care and had been removed from her mother's home. Now a Douglas County district judge presiding over Eggleston's lawsuit has declared two state laws unconstitutional because, the judge ruled, they don't expressly require HHS to notify noncustodial parents when a child is placed in foster care.

June 13, 2011

by JoAnne Young

LEGISLATION -- A number of bills on the issue passed, including LR37, which authorized the Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee to review, investigate and assess the effect of child welfare reform, known as Families Matter.

Families Matter, is an 18-month effort to partially privatize the services. The investigation will include performance and financial audits, hearings and consultations with HHS, service providers, the courts, the Foster Care Review Board and lead agencies. Senators and auditors will also look at existing studies, reports and presentations relating to the child welfare system.

May 29, 2011

OGALLALA, Neb. -- A family is looking for answers, wondering how their son died while in the care of the state of Nebraska. They're left wondering if their child got the oversight they feel he needed while in foster care.

A few years ago, Toby Mitchell discovered he had a son in Ohio named Billy. Toby said he moved Billy to their western Nebraska home in Ogallala to make him part of their family. Soon after, Billy began exhibiting disturbing behaviors, his parents said. They said Billy tried to poison the fish tank and made other threats. "He had thought of how to kill his brother and sister," Michelle said.

April 29, 2011

by JoAnne Young

The Legislature will hold off on a bill that would place a moratorium on contracting with a lead agency for three foster care service areas in the state.

Lincoln Sen. Kathy Campbell, chairwoman of the Health and Human Services Committee, on Tuesday asked that the bill (LB95) be held until next January's session.

April 12, 2011

KEARNEY - Creating a more compassionate, moral and inclusive society will be highlighted by three national speakers at the third-annual Child Welfare Conference Friday at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Ethical practices with children and families is the theme of the conference, which will be at the Nebraskan Student Union Ponderosa Room. This year, the keynote speaker will be Sophia Dziegielewski, a professor and the editor of the Journal of Social Service Research in the School of Social Work at the University of Cincinnati.

April 12, 2011

Gov. Dave Heineman has picked an appropriate time to slow down, take a hard look at the factors, and select a course that's best for our state's most vulnerable individuals - children in unstable homes.

Nebraska's child welfare system has been a source of chronic concern, but problems have come to a head in recent months with setbacks in the attempt to privatize the system. Three of the five firms the state contracted to deliver care for children taken from their homes have quit - including Boys and Girls Home based in Kearney - and now the state is left with no company to provide the services in western, northern and central areas of Nebraska.

April 12, 2011

by Mark Young

Approximately 20 families participated in Friday's rally, which began at the Lincoln County Courthouse and ended at the HHS offices in North Platte.

Participation was expected to be higher, but Williams-Smotherman said it's understandable given what she called the environment of fear that has blanketed western Nebraska. At least two people who initially attended were heard to say, "I can't let my caseworker see me here," before leaving.

April 4, 2011

by Erin Grace

Massachusetts became the first state to place domestic violence advocates in child welfare offices in 1990. The state made basic domestic violence training mandatory for new social workers.

Michigan added family reunification workers to provide intensive home-based services for four to six weeks. The state placed 18 workers in different shelters to work with abused women and help them develop safety plans. The long-term success rates, defined as families remaining intact at 12 months following their services, were 85 percent for those getting home-based services and 96 percent for those in shelters.

March 27, 2011

by Erin Grace

How are Omaha's children faring? They are underserved, suggests a recent study of domestic violence programs here. They are underidentified, says a Nebraska state senator who sees a connection between domestic violence and juvenile delinquency.

Local experts note gaps in the system: no tracking of children in domestic violence homes; no training for teachers and school staffs; a shortage of available, affordable domestic violence-trained therapists; and not enough help for when a battered parent needs to cut ties and start over in a safer home.

March 27, 2011

by Izzy Lyman

In an unusual move, The Oklahoman devoted a house editorial to the recent Miss America competition.

Specifically, the newspaper noted, that the 2011 winner of the iconic pageant, Teresa Scanlan, a 17-year-old Nebraskan, was largely taught at home and that her educational background had "the homeschooling community buzzing with excitement."

January 25, 2011

by JoAnne Young

Two weeks ago, Nebraska Foster Care Review Board member Marcia Anderson called the state's child welfare reform an "environment of chaos."

On Friday, the board and its director, Carol Stitt, stepped forward with serious concerns about how child welfare reform is progressing. "Now they are talking about dismantling our whole case management system, and lead agencies have not shown the ability to take over these responsibilities," Stitt said. Mindy Parker, a six-year Lincoln foster parent, said that since the transition to reform she has felt children's safety is no longer a priority. Getting cases closed seems to be the most important issue, she said.

Lincoln Journal Star

October 22, 2010

by Ben Schwartz

Less than one year after being awarded a state contract to coordinate child welfare services in central, western, and northern Nebraska, Boys and Girls Home is out as the lead contractor.

Boys and Girls Home's contract with the state will end Oct. 15, according to a statement released Oct. 1 by the Department of Health and Human Services. Omaha-based provider Visinet went bankrupt earlier in 2010, and Lincoln provider Cedars withdrew from their contract in May. Cedars cited a projected loss of $5.5 million had they remained a lead provider.

The North Platte Bulletin

October 14, 2010

by Kim Schmidt

KEARNEY -- An "absolute failure of the system." That's how Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Mike Meister labeled the December 2009 death of 4-year-old Landon Payne.

"We have to take care of our kids. We've got to get this foster care privatization nonsense out of the system. We need to understand we're dealing with people, not commodities." Meister spoke of foster care failures throughout the state, the recent contract separation from the Boys and Girls Home, the Beatrice State Development Center, and the closure of Goodwill in the northeast part of the state as examples of HHS's failure.

Kearney Hub

October 9, 2010

OMAHA, Neb. -- A former Omaha youth group director and licensed foster care parent us going to prison for sexually assaulting to girls.

Mark Hild was sentenced to 15 years in prison after being convicted of sexual assault of a child. His victims were 11 and 13-years-old.

KETV News 7

October 1, 2010

A group that helps families navigate Nebraska's child welfare system may have to shut its doors. Budget cuts may be to blame for the loss of those services.

Employees with a group called Parents to Parents in Norfolk Nebraska have been told they may soon be out of a job, and the news is not being taken lightly. While the doors are still open at parent to parent, inside are worried employees.

Channel 9 KCAU-TV

September 25, 2010

Nebraska-based Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) had employees of a Chinese state agency inspect the state controlled-farms.

Organic food from China, including frozen vegetables, edemame soybeans, ginger, and tea, have found their way into supermarkets including Trader Joe's and Whole Foods.  The packages often sport the "U.S.D.A. Organic" seal, but concern and even outrage over Chinese goods in recent years-from tainted pet food to lead paint-has prompted more retailers, including Whole Foods, to reduce the number of organic products coming from China.


June 16, 2010

Attempted reform has plunged the child welfare system in Nebraska into turmoil. The system has been hit by one convulsion after another since the effort began last year.

Children are removed from their homes in Nebraska at a higher rate than almost every other state in the country. The high cost of out-of-home care means that Nebraska spends proportionately more money on child welfare than most states, according to Richard Wexler of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.

Journal Star

May 20, 2010

by Martha Stoddard

LINCOLN -- The courts ordered Joni Levinson's son to get regular home visits as part of learning to cope with his problems.

But the Lincoln boy hasn't been home since the state's contract with Visinet, an Omaha-based private child welfare agency, ended abruptly April 15. State case managers were to pick up where Visinet left off in making sure services to children and families continued. Officials with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services terminated Visinet's contracts earlier this month, after the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Omaha World-Herald

April 29, 2010

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