LINCOLN — PromiseShip of Omaha will manage metro-area child welfare cases for a little longer under a $35.8 million, six-month contract extension.

Matthew Wallen, director of children and family services at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, announced the extension Friday.

It will move the contract expiration date to Dec. 31, 2019.

Wallen said state officials need the additional time to work on a new request for proposals for case management in Douglas and Sarpy Counties.

Plans call for putting the case management contract out to bid early next year.

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The state currently contracts with PromiseShip, a private nonprofit formerly known as the Nebraska Families Collaborative, to manage cases and provide services in two counties.

HHS originally contracted with PromiseShip in 2009, when the state attempted to privatize child welfare statewide.

PromiseShip, formed by Boys Town and other private Omaha-area child welfare agencies, is the only surviving contractor from that experiment.

HHS employees manage child welfare cases in all other parts of the state.

The contract with PromiseShip has been expanded and extended multiple times since then.

In October 2016, HHS put the contract out to bid for the first time since the privatization effort began.

Officials ended up rejecting both bids and, in May 2017, extended the PromiseShip contract.

This time, Wallen said, the state has hired The Stephen Group, a government consulting agency based in New Hampshire, to strengthen the request for proposals.

The group specializes in working with child welfare agencies.

Along with helping on the request for proposals, the consultant will study whether Nebraska should continue contracting out case management.

A report on that question is due Jan. 1.

If HHS decides to take back responsibility for case management, the consultant will help work out a transition plan.

If the state continues contracting with a private entity, the consultant will help evaluate bids and work on getting the contract launched.

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Martha Stoddard keeps legislators honest from The World-Herald's Lincoln bureau, where she covers news from the State Capitol. Follow her on Twitter @StoddardOWH. Phone: 402-473-9583.

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