The state of Nebraska is cancelling its controversial contract with a financially troubled Kansas non-profit to provide child welfare services in the Omaha area.
The move against Saint Francis Ministries came just ahead of the release later today of a legislative special committee report on the group’s case management contract.
Saint Francis won the contract in 2019 to manage child welfare cases involving neglected or abused children with a 5-year $197-million dollar bid that was 40% less than the previous contract holder.
Observers raised questions at the time at how Saint Francis could do the job for so much less, and it quickly became apparent it couldn’t, especially with the state limiting each caseworker to 17 cases.
The state signed an emergency contract with Saint Francis the past January for another $150-million dollars that was supposed to last until February 2023, but the non-profit has continued to struggle.
In October, the state barred Saint Francis from taking on additional cases and instead assigned new cases to state child welfare workers instead – saying the change would give Saint Francis time to correct deficiencies and hire adequate staff.
Tuesday’s contract announcement gave no specific reason for cancellation, but did say the state would assume case management responsibilities January 3rd.
Nebraska Child Welfare Inspector General Jennifer Carter says the state and Saint Francis were doing the right thing by ending the contract.
Carter calls managing child welfare cases a “core government function” and says Nebraska’s pilot program to privatize those services, now more than a decade old, has not been successful.
Nebraska still has contracts with Saint Francis to recruit foster parents and place children in foster homes.