Lincoln, NE-- In November of 2013, the Foster Care Review Office, a state agency separate from Department of Health and Human Services, released its annual report. Among other things, the report found 50 percent of out-of-home caregivers did not receive medical information regarding the child at the time of placement into a home.
This led to an investigation by 10/11 of what information is actually released during the time of placement.
10/11 spoke with one parent who claimed they did not have vital information needed to take care of their foster children. She told us, “When the [children] came to us, it was nine at night, it was a house full of people, and basically here are some clothes, kids, some information, good luck.”
For confidentiality purposes, we are not identifying the parent’s name, but instead are calling her "Ashley."
Ashley also said she was given the children’s names, parents' information, but very little medical information. She did say they received immunization records, only because it was a requirement for daycare.
The Department of Health and Human Services acknowledges that they do not always have all the information, but will provide parents with the what they know.
But sometimes, what they know is limited.
"Sometimes we don't have the medical information," said Thomas Pristow, Director of Children & Family Services. "Because parents don't give it to us or we might not have access to the information."
10/11 spoke with several other foster families who are in a similar situation who claim information is scarce. However, DHHS said it is their protocol for every foster parent to sign a contract that states they do not have all the information, but will have a caseworker work with them in the following month to gather what they need to know regarding health for the child.
Pristow said the caseworker is the communication bridge between the parent and the department. It is the caseworker’s job to gather the most recent data and inform parents of necessary information.
However, Ashley said she has stopped relying on her caseworker because they are not easy to access. Instead, she relies on her agency specialist.
“We get better response that way,” said Ashley. “We don’t wait days for the information, we get it right away.”
Pristow said he has a plan and since joining DHHS two years ago, the need for improvements are apparent.
“We have developed a strong management team," said Pristow. "We have done great work to clean the data and know the kids.”
Ashley hopes the changes will happen soon, but until then she want's the department to communicate better with her.