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Systemic investigation launched regarding sexual abuse of youth in state care

(KSNB)
Published: Dec. 21, 2016 at 2:46 PM CST
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Julie L. Rogers, Inspector General of Nebraska Child Welfare, announced a systemic investigation into whether adequate steps are being taken by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to prevent and respond to sexual abuse and exploitation of youth in the state’s care.

The investigation is based on 36 reports received since July 2013 of state wards, youth placed in state-licensed facilities, and youth adopted from the child welfare system who were subjected to sexual abuse or exploitation.

The Office of Inspector General of Nebraska Child Welfare (OIG) has provided notice to DHHS of its investigation, and over the course of the next few months will gather and analyze data, review all relevant information, and conduct interviews.

The investigation’s recommendations will be made public in September 2017, as part of the OIG’s release of its annual report.

“We know that children and youth in the state’s care — both in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems — are particularly vulnerable. Many have already been victims of abuse or neglect, have experienced trauma, or both,” said Rogers. “This investigation will focus on better understanding when and why certain youth, whose protection is incumbent on the state of Nebraska, are being sexually abused and victimized. The key purpose of this investigation will be identifying areas for improvement and making recommendations regarding how Nebraska can better prevent and respond to abuse of children in the state’s care.”

Anyone with concerns about the safety of a child should immediately call the Nebraska Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline: 1-800-652-1999. Those with information relevant to the OIG’s investigation can contact the office through an online form, by email (oig@leg.ne.gov), or by telephone (1-855-460-6784).

Created in 2012, the Office of Inspector General of Nebraska Child Welfare is a subdivision of the Ombudsman’s office and housed within the legislative branch of government. The OIG provides accountability for the child welfare and juvenile justice systems through independent investigations, inquiries and reviews, resulting in system improvement.

Statement from Department of Health and Human Services: 

The care and well-being of children in our custody is of the utmost importance to this Agency.  We have an open relationship with the IG.  The IG’s office receives all our critical incident reports and we provided the requested data for the upcoming report concerning state wards.  As part of our business plan, we’ve been working with our partners on reducing the number of out-of-home placements and already are taking pro-active steps to improve the work that’s being done.  We look forward to continue working with the IG and welcome the recommendations from the report.