Wednesday, March 14, 2012

National child welfare advocate says Nebraska overhaul proposals won't solve problem

GRANT SCHULTE Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska's attempt to reform its child welfare system this year fails to address the fact that too many children are yanked from their homes and kept in foster care, a national child advocacy group said Monday.

The National Coalition for Child Protection Reform criticized Nebraska's reform proposals in a biting new report, which blamed most of the state's problems on a "take the child and run" mentality that needlessly splits families apart.

Lawmakers are on the verge of passing child welfare measures this session that would scale back caseloads for social workers, create a child welfare watchdog that reports to the Legislature and end the state's experiment with privatized services in all but two Omaha-area counties.

But family advocates said most of the measures fail to address the core problems: Nebraska removes children from their homes at a rate twice the national average, and keeps a higher proportion of its children in foster care than any other state.

Nebraska state officials say they use an evidence-based tool to decide which children are safe and unsafe in their homes, and will work with families and community services when possible to keep them together.

Richard Wexler, the coalition's executive director, said Nebraska child welfare workers too often see poverty in homes and assume the children are suffering from neglect.

Wexler said the glut of children becoming state wards led to high caseloads, which contributed to caseworker burnout and turnover that has destabilized the system. Costs have soared as well, and some children have had more than four caseworkers.

"Not only does Nebraska's obscene rate of removal do enormous harm to the children needlessly taken, it also overloads caseworkers so they have even less time to find children in real danger," Wexler said. "As a result, the take-the-child-and-run mentality which dominates Nebraska child welfare leaves all children less safe."

Richard Wexler, the group's executive director, says Nebraska social workers too often see poverty in homes and assume the children are suffering from neglect.
Melanie Williams-Smotherman, executive director of the Nebraska's Family Advocacy Movement, said the state's child welfare services are comprised of "career child savers" who use confidentiality and safety laws to pry children away from families.

"Their spirit is broken, their children have been harmed and alienated, and they have lost all necessary resources to remain stable and functioning," Williams-Smotherman said.

State child welfare officials said they are "on the same page" as the family advocates, and want to see fewer children taken from their homes. Lawmakers and child advocates have repeatedly criticized the state Department of Health and Human Services for failing to reduce caseloads and control costs.

Vicki Maca, who oversees the Division of Children and Family Services, said the state's Families Matter effort "is built on the goal of having fewer children in the state's care and serving them at home when it's safe to do so.

"We want a system that allows parents the opportunity to have access to services in their own community without state involvement," she said. "That is what our reform is all about."

Maca said the Department of Health and Human Services plans to apply for a federal waiver that would give the state more flexibility in how it uses child welfare dollars.

States are required to use most of the federal money for out-of-home services, which, according to some critics, creates a financial incentive to keep children in the system. Lawmakers and child advocates have pushed a measure that would require the department to apply for the waiver, which would free state officials to use the money for in-home services, such as parental counseling and substance abuse programs.

Child advocates have said Nebraska should seek the waiver right away, because states must compete for the waiver. Maca said the state needs to maximize the amount of waiver money the state can receive.

Nearly 8 out of 1,000 children were taken from their homes in Nebraska in 2010, compared with 3.4 nationally, the report found. The report also found a "racial bias" in foster care placements, with African-American children entering the system at a rate 3.4 times higher than the general population, and Native American children at 6.8 times greater.



  1. This happened to me actually I was poor still am anyone with a grudge or an axe to grind can report you falsely and u can and will.lose your children for.good they will black.mail u and twist things make u think u said something u didn't its even worse when u r poor and on welfare they judge u even more and its wrong I cry a lot I miss and I hate cps many of my workers left after they saw what was happening to me they tried to stop it and got moved to other families so they quit its a shame what has happened to our children I wish I had had someone to help me then

    1. I am so sorry. I know it hurts. Going through it also. Hang in their and ask GOD for help.
      take care

  2. i lost my children to these child stealers in 2010 and will never be the same not all of us can have a big fancy house like some i misss my children and its to late CPS IS CORRUPT A LEAGALIZED BLACK MARKET BABY RING