LINCOLN — State officials are trying again to bid out the job of overseeing the care of abused and neglected children in the Omaha area.

The Department of Health and Human Services issued a request for proposals Wednesday seeking providers interested in the case management contract now held by the Omaha-based PromiseShip.

The state is offering a five-year contract with the option of two single-year extensions.

Matthew Wallen, the HHS children and family services director, said the agency wants a provider that can manage child welfare services “in the least intrusive and least restrictive manner possible.”

“Services requested are designed to give family and children the opportunity to safely preserve their family whenever possible, engage with both formal and informal community resources and strengthen parents’ protective capacity, all while keeping children safe from harm,” he said.

The winning bidder would handle cases in Douglas and Sarpy Counties, which account for about 40 percent of the state’s total.

PromiseShip, a private nonprofit formerly known as the Nebraska Families Collaborative, currently manages those cases and has done so since 2009, when the state tried 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 cases in all other parts of the state.

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

HHS tried to put the contract out to bid in October 2016 for the first time since the privatization effort began. On March 30, 2016, officials announced that they had chosen to stick with the collaborative that later became PromiseShip. But the other bidder, Magellan Choices for Families, filed a protest.

Officials responded by rejecting both bids and, in May 2017, extended the PromiseShip contract. The contract expires at the end of this year.

This time, the state 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.

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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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