Family finding pilot project funding lowered

A bill that would create a pilot project to establish family connections for state wards was returned from final reading May 19 for consideration of an amendment.

LB243, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Kate Bolz, would create a four-year statewide pilot program to provide family finding services in at least two service areas. The state Department of Health and Human Services would contract with providers to carry out the program and would provide oversight.

The department also would be required to establish a data collection system and contract with an academic institution to complete an independent evaluation of the pilot project’s effectiveness.

Bolz offered a motion to return the bill to select file for an amendment that would provide a cost savings for the first two years of the pilot project. The amendment would reduce funding to the program from $1.5 million per year in fiscal years 2015-16 and 2016-17 to $750,000 each year.

Omaha Sen. Heath Mello supported the amendment, saying it reflected the effort that many senators had made to lower the fiscal cost of their bills to enable more of them to be approved this year.

Bolz said the intention was to have a slower start-up to the project, which would lower the bill’s fiscal impact while still helping children find permanency with family members.

“That is why I’m willing to change the scope and the scale of this bill,” she said.

Senators adopted the amendment 41-0 and voted 32-2 to re-advance the bill to select file.

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