Special Efforts Being Made in Nebraska to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities

DCFS has implemented an internal review process for when a child involved with the child welfare system dies, to identify system issues and make changes that may prevent a future child death. These reviews are not focused on individual blame but on identifying systemic issues. The Child and Maternal Death Review Team is currently developing recommendations to be implemented over the next calendar year. The addition of the Office of the Child Welfare Inspector General has helped to push these internal reviews forward. [Recommendation 5.1]

As a follow-up to two recent child death reports by the Nebraska Child Welfare Inspector General, DCFS is meeting monthly with DPH to collaborate on prevention efforts related to safe sleep and pediatric abusive head trauma. In addition, DCFS was asked to participate on the Interpersonal Violence (child abuse and neglect) strategy team for the Child Safety Collaborative Innovation & Improvement Network that is led by the Children’s Safety Network. [Recommendation 7.1]

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded a $15 million, five-year grant to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Center on Children, Families and the Law to study ways to address the workforce problems facing child welfare agencies.  Researchers will study the operations of state and tribal child welfare agencies across the nation to consider hiring processes, organizational culture, supervision, worker recruitment and other factors, and test promising strategies for recruiting and retaining child welfare workers.  In related matters, the Nebraska Office of Inspector General’s 2015-2016 Annual Report reviewed 22 cases in the last year that resulted in the death or serious injury of children in which child welfare agency caseloads were a factor. A Nebraska Children’s Commission report found that “[m]ultiple oversight bodies have expressed concern about high caseloads and turnover and their impact on the entire system, including disrupted relationships with families, extensive costs of recruitment and training, and gaps in information available to case managers and judges. [Recommendation 5.1a]

The Nebraska Legislature is currently considering LB 189 (Howard), which would appropriate $1 million over two years to help recruit and retain child welfare workers.  [Recommendation 5.1a]