Inspector General for Child Welfare highlights need for improvements and foster care issues

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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) – More Nebraska children involved in the child welfare system are ending up with serious injuries.

This is an excerpt from the last annual report written by Jennifer Carter, Inspector General of Child Welfare.

According to the report, Carter investigated the serious injuries of 10 children involved in the child protective system. Last year, she only investigated one.

“When you see an increase, even if it’s a small number, but compared to what you’ve seen in the past and the number is bigger, we just wanted to be careful, but I don’t think it there’s reason to panic,” Carter said.

Of these 10 cases, nine concern the abuse of children between the ages of one and 10 years old. They were all involved in the welfare program, whether they were wards of the state, in the intake and initial assessment process, or engaged in the alternative response program, which is a program more flexible that provides families in need with resources to stabilize them.

“We have never had so many injuries or cases related to an alternative response, so we would look at those cases to say if there is a commonality? Is there a policy that the department would benefit from? Are there any changes in the laws that need to be made? Carter said.

The 10th case is a 17-year-old injured in a shooting, who was a ward of the state and involved in juvenile probation.

Another concern covered by Carter’s report is the lack of placements for children who have been removed from their homes. She said DHHS had enough approved foster homes on paper, but they weren’t accepting children.

“Older kids are always difficult, or more difficult than others, I should say, to place,” Carter said. “But sometimes we even find that it’s the infants that they struggle to find a home for.

She said DHHS needs to do more to support foster homes because in some situations, older children have moved from shelter to shelter or stayed overnight in hotels because they don’t. had nowhere to go.

“You don’t really have any possessions with you, you don’t have any kind of comfort or familiarity,” Cater said. “I think it’s very difficult.”

The final big takeaway from the report is that DHHS must continue to focus on reducing the workload of child protection workers.

As of July 2022, only the central service area achieves the goal of being 90% compliant with mandatory workloads. With the Eastern service area only at 36.3% compliance. With the rest between 66% and 88% compliance.

“The real challenge for this is when a social worker has too many cases,” Carter said. “They can’t pay attention to every case, in the way and with the depth that they probably want and need.”

10/11 Has now contacted DHHS for comment on these issues. They highlighted their successes such as stabilizing YRTCs and adjusting after St. Francis’ contract ended, but also said they were committed to more improvements.

Read the full report here: https://nebraskalegislature.gov/reports/public_counsel.php

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