Jodie Austin has joined St. Francis Ministries as the regional vice president in the Omaha area.

In July, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services signed a contract with Kansas-based St. Francis to provide child welfare case management in Douglas and Sarpy Counties beginning next year.

Abused and neglected children in Douglas and Sarpy Counties make up about 40% of the state’s total. St. Francis will provide management services for foster care, adoption, service coordination and other tasks.

Austin, a native Nebraskan, is a licensed clinical social worker who has worked in child welfare for more than 20 years. She previously worked for KVC Health Systems, most recently as executive vice president for the KVC Institute for Health Systems Innovation.

The St. Francis contract is still being challenged in court. Earlier this month, PromiseShip, the agency that currently manages Omaha-area child welfare cases, said in response to a judge’s order that it would amend its lawsuit challenging the state’s decision to award the contract to St. Francis.

A judge said he would dismiss the suit filed by the agency that currently manages Omaha-area child welfare cases if St. Francis Ministries was not added as a defendant in the case within 30 days.

In response, PromiseShip officials said in a statement Aug. 13 that they would add St. Francis to the lawsuit and would continue to pursue the case.

PromiseShip’s lawsuit challenged the contract, alleging that St. Francis’ bid should have been disqualified for failing to meet the terms of the request for proposals or to comply with state law.

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