OMAHA, Neb. — This past July Saint Francis Ministries won a five-year contract to oversee the child welfare and foster care systems in Douglas and Sarpy Counties. Saint Francis' bid was chosen over the previous contractor, Promiseship.
About 40 percent of Nebraska's child welfare cases are in Douglas and Sarpy counties, known as the Eastern Service Area. So when Promiseship lost the bid after running the child welfare system in the area for ten years, people had questions and concerns. Most of the concerns stemmed from the fact the Saint Francis offered to do the job for $114 million dollars less than Promiseship. People were also afraid of the disruption of a finally stable time in the foster care system in the Eastern Service Area. Regardless, the transition has begun and is seemingly going well.
"The Department, Saint Francis and Promiseship have built a three-legged stool to partner together," Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Administrator Ross Manhart said.
It has taken the cooperation of all three organizations to have a successful transition of major power in Nebraska's foster care and child welfare systems.
"Of course there are challenges to transition this large but we've been doing very well at addressing those challenges as they've come up," Manhart said.
Manhart also says that some of those challenges have come up between the two contractors.
"Coordination of the two agencies, making sure that everything is going according to plan," he said.
There are around 1,500 cases to transition.
"At this time I would say there's been approximately 1,300 cases that have transitioned," Saint Francis Ministries Regional Vice President Jodie Austin said.
There are still roughly 100 cases that have to be transitioned by the deadline January 1, 2020. Austin said that should be no problem.
"We should be sitting very well with caseloads come Janaury 1," she said.
A few dozen cases will not have the same case manager because some employees did not transfer to the new contractor. But 70 employees did make the switch and Saint Francis will hire more employees to make sure case loads still average less than 16 cases per employee.
Saint Francis was set to start the case transition process in January. They started that process three months early, despite a pair of lawsuits regarding the new contract.
"Our focus has always been on children, families. We thought that an extended transition would help in making sure that we're able to manage the case transfer from one agency to the next," Manhart said.
Saint Francis is based out of Kansas so they have recently acquired two new offices in the local area. One office will be in Omaha and the other in Bellevue. There are still renovations that will have to take place but Austin is hoping the offices will be up and running in full by mid-January. The Bellevue location will be in the same building as Promiseship's previous office location.
DHHS and Saint Francis are holding two town hall meetings to increase transparency and answer any questions the public may have on the lengthy transition process. Anyone is welcome to attend.
Thursday, December 12
First United Methodist Church
7020 Cass St.
Omaha, NE 68132
Session #1: 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Session #2: 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
****Correction - video states November 12, the correct date is December 12
****Correction - video states there are around 1,800 total cases to transition, the correct amount is around 1,500