Child welfare strategic plan and oversight approved

A bill intended to provide a strategic plan and legislative oversight for child welfare programs in Nebraska was given final approval April 5.

LB821, sponsored by the Health and Human Service Committee, creates a 22-member Nebraska Children’s Commission tasked with creating a statewide strategic plan to reform child welfare programs and services in the state.

Among other issue areas, the commission will be required to create committees to examine foster care reimbursement rates and state policy regarding prescription of psychotropic drugs to state wards. The commission is required to report on the strategic plan to the Legislature and the governor by Dec. 15, 2012.

The bill also creates the Office of Inspector General within the Office of Public Counsel, also known as the Ombudsman’s Office.

The inspector general will be appointed by the public council and approved by the Legislature. The office is authorized to investigate allegations of possible misconduct, death or serious injury in foster homes, private agencies, child-care facilities and programs.

The office also will review the role and effectiveness of the state’s youth rehabilitation and treatment centers, analyze data and report to the Legislature and the governor annually.

Under the bill, law enforcement agencies and prosecuting attorneys are required to cooperate with investigations conducted by the inspector general, regardless of any criminal investigation or prosecution in progress.

LB821 passed on a 49-0 vote.

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