Privatization Fails: Nebraska Tries Again to Reform Child Welfare

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LINCOLN, Neb. - Foster parent Jenae VanEvery got a call around midnight one day in September 2011 asking if she could take in two sisters — ages 2 and 3 — who had been found living in filth and squalor by Lincoln, Neb. police.

The children were in the custody of the non-profit group KVC, one of the private contractors the state of Nebraska had hired after deciding in 2009 to privatize its child welfare system. VanEvery agreed but said she could not pick up the chil­dren until the next afternoon.

When VanEvery and her husband ar­rived to pick up the children, they were sleeping in a back room – still wearing the urine- and-feces-covered clothing they had on when police took them the day before.

“When we walked in, the 3-year-old woke up and jumped into my arms. I was taken aback by the strong aroma com­ing from her. It made my eyes water, and it was hard to breathe,” VanEvery said. “When we arrived home, we took them straight to the bathroom. The 3-year-old had a cable-knit sweater … that … had rubbed her shoulder blades raw because it had become so saturated in urine and fe­ces that it dried incredibly stiff and rough.

“Her shoes were covered in feces — inside and out,” VanEvery said. “My husband took the clothes straight to the clothes washer, and I started giving them a bath. I had to change the water twice.”

It apparently had been so long since the children were bathed that “they freaked out when I turned the water on,” she said. “This was very scary for them.”

As it was for VanEvery: How, she thought, could caseworkers allow the girls to remain so filthy while in their care?

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