Sen. Kate Bolz (D-Nebraska) said last week that she intends to seek a legislative resolution to establish an oversight committee over Nebraska’s child welfare system, which is dealing with the fallout of a report about the sexual abuse of kids in foster care.
The report, released by Nebraska Inspector General Julie Rogers, found that dozens of children in the state’s care between July 2013 and October 2016 suffered sexual abuse, according to an article in the Omaha World-Herald. The report details the cases of 50 Nebraska children – 27 of whom were abused while in the state’s care and 23 were former state wards who were sexually abused while in the care of adoptive parents or guardians.
Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Chief Executive Director Courtney Phillips disputed the need for an oversight committee.
“Legislative oversight of the agency falls under the jurisdiction of the Health and Human Services (HHS) committee,” Phillips said in a statement after Bolz’s announcement. “An additional oversight committee is duplicative. DHHS has been open to working with senators and will continue to collaborate with them to ensure our system protects the children in our care.”
In an email to The Chronicle of Social Change, Nebraska Division of Children and Family Services Director Matt Wallen said “the final report and recommendations were changed based on our collaborative meetings, responses and input. DHHS appreciates the thoughtful final assessment by the Office of Inspector General [OIG]. While the Inspector General’s report sheds light on a very small minority of cases, we will use the findings to guide us as we move forward. DHHS will continue to work cooperatively with the OIG, as we have in the past.”
Since the release of the report DHHS has planned additional team training and worked to clarify existing policies to address communication with stakeholders, Wallen said. In addition, DHHS is working with the governor’s office on a review of DCFS operations and finances.
“Of the 18 recommendations outlined in the OIG’s report, we are committed to incorporating 14 into our best practices, three of which we will incorporate with modifications,” Wallen said in an email. “The enactment of these changes will be an ongoing process. The remaining four rejected recommendations to endorse policies, plans or initiatives previously implemented by DHHS, and currently in operation.”
According to the article in the World-Herald, Nebraska Sen. Bolz said she would request the performance and fiscal audits of the system the first week of the 2018 session, which began this week.