Number of Nebraska State Wards Declines


      The number of state wards in Nebraska has fallen nearly14 percent since March of 2012.

      The state Department of Health and Human Services says Nebraska had about 5,200 children in the child welfare system as of July 15, down from over 6,000 in March 2012.

      "We take great satisfaction in ourprogress, but we also recognize there are [sic] a child and family behind everynumber," shared Thomas Pristow, director of Children and Family Services. "It is tremendously rewarding to see those numbers dropbecause it means we're providing the services that will help them address theirneeds. When there are strong family ties, children are safer and our state isstronger."

      Pristow also reported that the number of children living out of home fell to 3,680 at the end of March, down from 2011 when there was 4,336 children out of home.

      He says the department is working to reduce the number of wards safely. Pristow said, "The leaders in our five serviceareas have worked very hard implementing a new philosophy and approaches toserving children and families."

      "Research shows that services forchildren are more effective when provided at home," he continued. "Employees are focused onproviding services to help improve the situations facing families, and they aredoing their best to keep children safe."

      Pristow said in December 2012, 12.5 percent of state wards were reentering the system less than 1 year after reunification with their family. He says that number was down to 10.9 percent at the end of May.

      Children and Family Services recently completed their last requirement for their performance improvement plan made following a 2008 federal review. That last requirement was to be more timely in completing safety and risk assessments of children.

      Pristow says even with all these improvements they are still "'righting the ship', and we have more to accomplish."