Reform Hits Snags in Nebraska

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Anyone overhauling child welfare and juvenile justice systems might want to watch the bumpy implementation of reform in Nebraska.

Two of the five private companies that signed contracts last fall to provide services for youth and families in those systems have pulled out of the deal – with the last blow coming Friday, when one of the companies went bankrupt.

The companies had signed on with the Department of Health and Human Services to provide in-home and out-of-home care, and to coordinate myriad services. But Visinet, which went bankrupt, and Cedars Youth Services of Lincoln, which announced that it will end its contract in June, said the state’s reimbursement rates are too low.

  The state said that the human service department and the other private providers would temporarily handle the 2,000 youths who were in the care of the Omaha-based Visinet.

Department officials said all would be fine with its new plan, which calls for moving toward more in-home care. Nebraska officials said about 70 percent of state wards are in out-of-home placements, and that they want to reverse that percentage.

Those officials said they are open to seeing if they need to make changes in the contracts.  

“We’ve always called it a work in progress,” Todd Reckling, children and family services director for the department, told the Omaha World-Herald.