Nebraska inspector general’s office releases annual report on child welfare

Nebraska Capitol building
Nebraska Capitol building(Gina Dvorak / WOWT)
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 8:04 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - Incidents evaluated by the Nebraska Office of the Inspector General have increased in the past year, according to the annual report on child welfare in the state.

For this year’s report, released on Friday, the OIG evaluated 522 incidents during fiscal year 2022-2023, compared to 451 the year prior.

The most recent year’s intakes were mostly complaints, but 176 were agency-reported incidents; 116 were DHHS-reported CFS grievances; and 27 were informational reports. By comparison, the previous fiscal year’s reports were mostly agency-reported incidents, while 138 were complaints, 50 were DHHS grievances, and 29 were informational reports.

The report notes the need for nine mandatory investigations of incidents with children who had been in the system: seven involved deaths or serious injuries, and two involved alleged sexual abuse.

It also states that the OIG had completed three instances of death or serious injury:

  • A 2-year-old was seriously injured after consuming THC. According to the report: “The investigation revealed concerns with DHHS’s management of the foster home and the process that allowed that home to be overfilled.”
  • A 4-month-old infant nearly died from malnourishment in a foster home. According to the report: “The investigation concluded that while all policies were followed, a gap in the current policies and protocols resulted in a lack of verification and monitoring of the infant’s health care needs and treatment plan.”
  • The death by suicide of three youths also prompted an investigation, which concluded: “DHHS and its employees did not contribute in any way to the deaths. Given the increased risk of suicide for youth in the foster care system, the investigation determined that suicide prevention training and support for workers and families caring for this vulnerable population should be enhanced.”

The report also noted the department has made improvements to how it monitors sexual abuse allegations including monitoring the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers, known as YRTCs, while also focusing on juvenile detention facilities.

  • The OIG looked into 43 reports at the center in Kearney, substantiating 15 of them. Most involved allegations of inappropriate touching by other youth, but two involved allegations about a staff member. That compares to 17 reports made there in the previous year, nine of which were substantiated.
  • At the Kearney center, there was also an allegation made by a youth about a sexual relationship with a staffer. That incident was investigated by the Nebraska State Patrol.
  • At the center in Hastings, the OIG received 28 reports and substantiated 17 of them. Most involved inappropriate touching by other youth, but one involved sexual harassment between two youths. That compares with 12 of 17 reports substantiated the year prior.
  • The youth center in Lincoln substantiated 13 of 23 reported incidents. Most involved inappropriate touching by other youth; one involved sexual harassment between two youths. That compared with three of four reports substantiated in the year prior.

Read the OIG’s report