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Matt Wallen has resigned as director of Children and Family Services at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. 

Department CEO Dannette Smith accepted his resignation this week, according to a notice sent to HHS workers. He has been in the position two years and before that was chief of staff to former CEO Courtney Phillips for two years.

His last day will be Sept. 8, according to Smith's announcement. 

Wallen oversees the protection and safety section, including all child welfare services, adult protective services and domestic violence; the Office of Juvenile Services, including two youth rehabilitation and treatment centers in Kearney and Geneva; and the economic support section, including child support enforcement and economic assistance programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Aid to Dependent Children, energy assistance, child care subsidy and others.

Smith said that during Wallen's time at HHS, he led changes that improved outcomes for families, including reducing the number of children in out-of-home care by 16%.

"I greatly appreciate that under his leadership, Director Wallen’s team has changed CFS’ focus to primary prevention, improving family engagement and serving children and families in their own homes," Smith wrote.

He also maintained ACCESSNebraska call wait times to less than five minutes for more than 24 consecutive months and improved the safety, access and quality of child care services through programmatic changes.

“Director Wallen has done an outstanding job of leading our child welfare agency," Gov. Pete Ricketts said in a news release. "He has brought changes that will truly have a long-lasting, positive impact on Nebraska families."

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Smith said the search for a new director is underway and she is developing a leadership transition plan.

Wallen also led the planning and implementation of the eastern service area child welfare case management contractor transition.

"Dozens of highly qualified DHHS teammates are prepared to continue the transition under the direction of the office of the CEO," Smith said.

The new $39.2 million annual child welfare contract for the Omaha area with Kansas-based Saint Francis Ministries has been highly controversial, resulting in a protest and then a lawsuit by current contractor PromiseShip. The contract will last five years, with an option for two additional years.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSLegislature.

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