LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — On Tuesday the State of Nebraska announced that it will again be responsible for child welfare case management services following months of controversy around Saint Francis Ministries, the provider contracted by the state to provide case management.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services was previously engaged in an emergency contract with Saint Francis Ministries, but the announcement states there is a "mutual agreement" to cease the contract. This means Saint Francis will no longer be the lead agency in the Eastern Service Area. The transition will begin on Jan. 3.
The agency is a large foster care provider in Nebraska and was placed on probation in September after months of staff and funding issues. In October, leaders from the nonprofit testified before the state legislature and admitted that its bid to provide child welfare services to the state was too low.
“Simply put the bid was bad,” said the interim President of Saint Francis Ministries, William Clark.
Though the agency will no longer be in charge of case management with DHHS, it will continue its relationship with the Eastern Service Area by remaining as the child placing agency.
The Nebraska DHHS wants to assure the public that it "remains focused on doing what is in the best interest for children and families in Nebraska."
This seems to end a long saga of controversy surrounding Saint Francis Ministries. In 2019, they were awarded a five-year, $197 million contract. Then after serious financial issues, the state renegotiated the contract, giving Saint Francis a two-year, $147 million contract, which amounted to around $2 million more a month.
This prompted the Nebraska Legislature to launch a special committee investigation on how Saint Francis got the bid, and the quality of foster care services they've provided.
In the last hearing, CEO of the Nebraska DHHS Dannette Smith said if they again had a chance, they would not have awarded the contract to Saint Francis.
While Clark told senators, Saint Francis was never expecting to make money on the deal.
"Did Saint Francis expect a loss on the contract, the answer is yes."
In earlier hearings, case workers and their partners told the committee they were overworked, had too many cases, with little to no support from Saint Francis or the state.
The full committee report is expected to come out Wednesday, Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh tells 3 News Now.