Nebraska Appleseed Says PromiseShip, St. Francis Contracts In Violation of Nebraska’s Constitution

Scott Stewart
The Daily Record

Nebraska Appleseed demanded that the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services halt the privatization of child welfare care management in the Omaha area because it alleges that continued privatization violates the Nebraska Constitution.

The nonprofit organization said it sent a demand letter Monday to officials at DHHS as well as the state Department of Administrative Services, PromsieShip and Saint Francis Ministries. Nebraska Appleseed said that if contracts are not stopped within the week, it will file a lawsuit seeking a court order to stop the contracts.

DHHS currently contracts with PromiseShip – a nonprofit coalition among Boys Town, Child Saving Institute, Heartland Family Service, Nebraska Family Support Network and Omni Inventive Care – to provide Douglas and Sarpy county with child welfare case management services. In January, DHHS plans to transition to Kansas-based Saint Francis Ministries to provide services.

“Nebraska’s children and families deserve a stable child welfare system that is not subject to disruption on an on-going basis,” said Sarah Helvey, director of Appleseed’s Child Welfare Program. “The time for experimenting with the Eastern Service Area has come to an end and it is time to return to a cohesive system of case management statewide.”

Helvey said the Nebraska Constitution protects against legislation that treats people in similar situations differently.

“Continuing to utilize a system of private case management contracts that serve only two counties in the state violates that protection,” Helvey said in a news release. “We hope that the agency officials and private organizations will come to the table to resolve this issue without the need for litigation. However, we are fully prepared to go to court to defend the rights of Nebraska’s children and families and the tax dollars that have been supporting a disjointed system.”

DHHS told The Daily Record in a statement that it does not comment on threats of litigation or pending litigation.

In addition to Nebraska Appleseed’s potential lawsuit, PromiseShip already has filed a lawsuit against DHHS, the Nebraska Department of Administrative Services and Saint Francis Ministries seeking to overturn the award of a contract to Saint Francis Ministries.

Meanwhile, Saint Francis has taken steps to begin transitioning case management services to its organization next year, including hiring staff in the Omaha area.

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