End Corruption in Nebraska's Child Welfare System
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The failings of Nebraska's child welfare system are well known and widely publicized. What has not been brought to the attention of policy makers or the general public, are the personal stories of families affected by the ineptitude, indifference and corruption of the system - the same system that touts the following beliefs and values as part of the philosophical basis for its own existence:
"Children grow best in families, which are the cornerstone of our society. "
"Every family and individual is unique and has basic rights and responsibilities."
"The strengths of families, children, and communities should be identified and supported, and all efforts should build on these strengths."
These values and beliefs seem to say all of the right things but the reality is that, for the majority of families involved with Nebraska's child welfare system, basic rights are trampled while parents are buried beneath a pile of obligatory "services" which are oftentimes unnecessary and inappropriate. Despite the State's belief that "every family and individual is unique," these "services" are assigned in a such a generalized, cookie-cutter manner that, no matter what the problems were that brought these families to the attention of the child welfare agency, the same services are ordered for each of them. Additionally, these services are designed to be progressive and ongoing. For example, a parent with an admitted substance use problem is ordered to take part in an Initial Diagnostic Interview (IDI) in order to receive the recommendation that they undergo a Chemical Dependency Evaluation, which will make recommendations for treatment. The treatment program will most likely be followed by a Relapse Prevention program which will then be followed by a lengthy Aftercare program.
To make matters worse, children are being removed from their homes at a record pace while more and more families in which the children are allowed, at least conditionally, to remain in the home are thrust into the system each day – all with the same standard services thrown at them. Despite the fact that new companies and agencies, each offering a full menu of the most frequently court ordered services and each vying for its share of the state and federally funded pot of gold, are popping up faster than CVS’s and Jimmy John’s franchises, this tidal wave of broken families has created a perpetual backlog at treatment centers, counseling services and charitable organizations across the state which, seemingly by design, guarantees a long waitlist for parents needing to access services.
These families are up against a clock that seems to be winding down on them far too quickly. The law dictates that the State must file a petition for Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) if a child has been in out of home placement for 15 of the previous 22 months. Facing waitlists for services sometimes as long as 60 days, countless appointments for other services, weeks and weeks in between court hearings and caseworkers who seemingly never return phone calls, content with making only the minimum required monthly contact with the family, it is a wonder that any families are successfully reunited in Nebraska.
The system is rigged and parents are set up to fail. The child welfare agencies, DHHS/NFC, are not alone in creating and perpetuating this problem. The court system is filled with just as much indifference and corruption - from the lawyers appointed to represent parents, to the County Attorneys who flood the juvenile court dockets with petition after petition, to the judges who blindly rubber stamp ex-parte motions, ordering the removal of children and destruction of families, oftentimes with no reliable evidence of maltreatment.
It is time for Nebraskan’s to see a true reform of the child welfare system. No more studies or “pilot programs.” No more buzzwords. No more sleight of hand. No more hiding behind closed courtroom doors and agency lawyers. Closed doors breed corruption. It is time to put an end to the financial incentives that make destroying families such a lucrative proposition. It is time to end the massive marketing campaigns, propaganda and recruitment efforts that rival those of most Fortune 500 companies. It’s time for real action and real change and the best places to start are the Separate Juvenile Courts of Douglas and Sarpy Counties and the Nebraska Families Collaborative, an over-powered agency filled with corruption from the CEO and COO, all the way down to the uniformed security guard in the lobby.
It’s time for Nebraska families to see change.
The tears of children and destruction of families is not big business. I’ve made it MY business to help put an end to the corruption that pervades every corner of the child welfare system in Nebraska and I am asking each of you to make it your business as well. Thank you.
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