Lawmakers debate 5 bills aimed to reform child welfare

By: Melina Matthes

Nebraska lawmakers spent the morning focused on bills that overhaul Nebraska's child welfare programs.

Senators debated over five bills introduced by Senator Kathy Campbell that could change Nebraska's child welfare system.

While most of the senators were in favor of the changes, they still had several clarifying questions.  But in the end, it's all for the kids.

Senator Ken Harr said, “The whole process is about the children.  It's not about who provides a service but rather the service provided to the children.”

The majority of the discussion was centered around a bill that would make the state of Nebraska have the legal responsibility for children in its custody and would allow the state the decision-making authority in direct case management of child welfare services.

Senator Scott Lautenbaugh said, “Understand now, this is becoming our baby, if you will.  We're calling the tune, we're setting the policy, we're setting the standards.  It's on us now and that is no way is meant to argue voting for any of these.  I just want to make sure we're going in eyes open.”

Another bill would create a commission to oversee all programs providing services to children and creates the Nebraska Children's Commission.

Campbell stresses these bills are aimed at the safety, well-being and permanency of Nebraska's children.

“What does that mean?” said Campbell.  “It means that they can safely return home and thrive with their family or it may mean that they find an adoptive home or kinship guardianship.”

There's also a push to create a system that tracks and shares information in child welfare cases.

These bills have only been debated.  Not voted on yet.