Governor won’t reappoint chair of foster care review board

The state's Foster Care Review Board is not a fan of Nebraska’s child welfare privatization. And it will lose two members, including its chair, after Gov. Dave Heineman announced in December he wouldn't reappoint Alfredo Ramirez and board member Ron Albin for second terms. The move came after the board's 2010 report in which it was critical of the reform Heineman supports. “A little over a year into the reform, the FCRB is finding that there are safety issues, accountability issues, implementation issues, and evidence that there has not been a correction of issues that existed prior to the reform,” the report said. “That’s the governor’s right,” says Heidi Ore, the board's administrative coordinator. The governor’s office argues board members are shuffled through often, to maintain fresh perspectives and offer new ideas — but some have raised concerns that the governor’s decision was politically motivated, or at the least, unwise. According to board data from the last 14 years, 61 percent of members' terms have been renewed. Remove two former board members, who were midterm replacements, from the equation and the number increases to 77 percent. (Ramirez has said he intends to appeal to the governor for reappointment; he declined to comment for this story.) Albin and Ramirez were the only two board members up for reappointment this year. The board has had an empty seat since November of 2009. And Heineman has not yet announced new candidates. “One of the things that is the most important, is that this board be strong, and be able to stay very focused on the work of health and human services,” says Kathy Bigsby Moore, executive director of Voices for Children in Nebraska. “And right now, with the child welfare reform being in such a state of flux, it seems to me that the continuity gained by reappointing Alfredo and Ron would outweigh any desire to give other people an opportunity to serve.” Author of the legislation creating the board, Bigsby Moore isn't aware of any safeguards in place to prevent politically motivated appointments or dismissals. Since the reform began in November of 2009, three of five lead agencies have eliminated their contracts. The newest stage of privatization begins Jan. 4, when case management duties are transferred from the state to private contractors. The board will likely be short three people during that process — Moore says it takes time to schedule the legislative hearings necessary to approve new members. — Hilary Stohs-Krause

posted at 05:36 pm
on Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

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