Lincoln – The key to preventing child abuse and neglect is strengthening families. The Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) Division of Children and Family Services (CFS) aims to keep families together, when it’s safe to do so, by building up parents, identifying and empowering support systems and providing assistance, when needed, to protect children from trauma.
“Prevention starts well before child welfare agencies are involved,” said Dannette Smith, DHHS Chief Executive Officer. “We know that partnering with parents is the best thing we can do to help protect children. DHHS is focused on establishing protective factors in both families and communities.”
The Nebraska Family Helpline, (888) 866-8660, is a 24/7 crisis, support and referral service provided by DHHS to assist parents and families.
“Creating stable families and safe home environments includes encouraging parental resilience, fostering strong social connections, knowledge of parenting and childhood development and providing concrete supports in times of need,” said Matt Wallen, Director of the Division of Children and Family Services. “Each year, approximately 75% of calls to the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline are related to neglect. Sometimes, it’s the lack of basic needs like food and shelter that puts a child at risk. ACCESSNebraska helps people live better lives by providing assistance to help meet a families’ basic needs.”
Statewide, the ACCESSNebraska economic assistance phone number is (800) 383-4278. In Lincoln, call (402) 323-3900; In Omaha call (402) 595-1258.
DHHS local partners promote prevention through family supports. This includes the community collaboratives that make up Bring Up Nebraska, local foundations, faith-based organizations, community agencies, Family Action Support Teams, Managed Care Organization collaborations and schools.
Additionally, Nebraska is leading the nation in child abuse prevention as one of first states to commit to fully implementing the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), signed into law by Congress in February 2018. The FFPSA reforms the federal child welfare financing stream to provide prevention services to families who are at risk of entering the child welfare system. DHHS is developing an FFPSA implementation plan to be rolled out October 1.
When children do enter the child welfare system, secondary prevention efforts include Community Response, Alternative Response, non-court case management and other initiatives designed to minimize the trauma children sustain when removed from their homes and families.
Kinship and family placement are another priority. In 2017, Nebraska ranked 6thin the nation with 93% of children being placed with family. That represented a 17% increase in family placement compared to 2007, ranking Nebraska second in the nation for improvement over that 10 year span.
“Prevention simply means supporting families to help keep kids out of the child welfare system,” said Wallen. “In 2018, the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline received more than 38,000 calls. Despite the increase in calls, there were fewer accepted calls than in previous years, a result of being better equipped to provide prevention and stabilizing resources to families. In 2018, CFS removed 12.2% fewer children from their homes, compared to the previous year. Such data highlights DHHS’ commitment to keeping families together, when it’s safe to do so, and further demonstrates the impact prevention has on Nebraska families.”
Child Abuse Prevention Month recognition events have been held across Nebraska, including constructing pinwheel gardens, wearing blue for prevention, social media campaigns, partner gatherings and a gubernatorial proclamation recognizing April as Child Abuse Prevention month in Nebraska.
A Facebook Live broadcast focused on the Child Abuse & Neglect Hotline will be held at Monday, April 29 at 11:45 on the DHHS Facebook page. Search @NEDHHS on Facebook to view.
Total calls to the Child Abuse & Neglect Hotline / Total accepted reports
- 2015 – 34,143 / 13,309
- 2016 – 35,902 / 13,735
- 2017 – 37,660 / 13,718
- 2018 – 38,249 / 12,758
- 2019 – 6,797 / 2,296 (Jan./Feb.)
Anyone who suspects child abuse or neglect is required by Nebraska law to report it to the Child Abuse & Neglect Hotline, law enforcement or your local DHHS office.
Child Abuse & Neglect Hotline number
Callers are not required to give their name